Hate speech sparks Friday's planned rally

Hate+speech+sparks+Friday%26%23039%3Bs+planned+rally

Jacques Abou-Rizk

In response to recent incidents in which white students used the n-word, Black Leadership Advisory Council (BLAC) organized a rally a-block Friday, Feb. 14, in the cafeteria and plan to protest all day on Main Street. 

Plans for the rally include a sit-in and a speech portion in which students of color will share their experiences at North concerning the n-word and other racial discrimination. The rally comes a week after principal Henry Turner sent out an email condemning the use of the word and reminding students of North’s hate speech rules.

Senior Leyla Davis, a BLAC officer, says the rally is meant to spark action from the school.

“This is mainly for the administration,” she said. “We just want them to know that this is serious for us, this is something that’s affecting a good number of their students and it should not be tolerated.”

According to Davis, the idea for the rally emerged at a BLAC meeting Monday, Feb. 3. Students in BLAC discussed four recent incidents, one of which was reported to school administration, in which white students at North used the n-word on social media.

“The email from Dr. Turner came as a result of the meeting that we had on Monday,” Davis said. “During the meeting, a lot of students felt as though racial issues at North in the past haven’t been dealt with the way that we would have liked to see them dealt with. We felt that it was necessary for families to know what’s going on at this school and for the school to acknowledge that publicly.”

According to Turner, the administration has been working with BLAC and the Leadership in a Diverse Society class to address the recent incidents. He said that he believes the Newton community needs to rally behind the issue before change can be made.

“It takes more than just one person and one leader and one principal. I think it takes the action of all of us as a community,” he said. “One thing that I would say is that we need to speak up as a community, that students should be speaking up when they hear a word of hate like this. I think that adults should be speaking up as well. I think that’s the only way we’re going to be able to root it out.”

Turner added that he believes the school is sparking that discussion.

“I think we are starting that conversation with the email,” he said. “We’ve been working as a faculty around anti-bias work, as a school we’ve been working towards anti-bias. I also think that we’ve been really supportive of our cultural celebrations which are ways in which we talk about issues around this.”

Davis added that the rally is also to build community relations between students who support the cause.

“Events like this really bring people together and show that this is a community,” she said. “To bring the community together of people who aren’t saying these things and who aren’t posting about this, everyone really needs to come together to show that we can still be a community in light of these recent events.”

Three years ago, an issue involving hate speech arose at North when some students waved a confederate flag, shouted, and caused a disturbance on Tiger Drive. The “Blackout” rally was held shortly after for students to show their opposition to the act.