In September 2015, we were inspired by a group of Black men in Connecticut who greeted and cheered for children on their first day of school in an effort to erase the negative images of Black people in the media. This particular action resonated with me because I grew up in a predominantly White neighborhood in Kirkland, WA and was consistently one of very few Black or Brown students at my school.
So when Sharon Chang suggested we replicate this event in Seattle, my father, Gerald Donaldson, and I jumped at the chance to help organize the event. My dad is a Family Support Worker at Leschi Elementary in Seattle’s Central District. So last fall at the beginning of the school year, about 25 Black and Brown adults gathered outside Leschi to welcome students to school and model a positive, supportive image of Black people in our community. #SeattleHigh5 was born.
Then in July of this year, I found myself screaming on my back porch in pain and terror because I had just witnessed Philando Castille die in real time in St. Paul, MN while I was still reeling from Alton Sterling’s death in Baton Rouge, LA the previous day. Those images of two Black men dead or dying are forever etched in my mind and occasionally reappear when I see fellow Black people in photos or in my community. And I cannot forget that a little girl witnessed Mr. Castille’s death, just feet away from where she sat.
So today, more than 80 black and brown adults and teens gathered once more at Leschi Elementary to welcome this year’s students back to school. #SeattleHigh5 is our small way of changing the images that Black children see of other Black people. We want to show them that our joys and successes have not been silenced by the violence and hate we face daily. We want to remind them that they have a community of people who love and support them. And most importantly, we want to tell them in person that their beautiful lives matter, even when there are images and people and systems that constantly try to tell them otherwise.
Today’s event was a beautiful testament to the power and resilience of Black people in America, and I am so honored to have been a part of it.