Monday, December 8, 2014

WUSTL alum Danielle Hayes reflects on race, racism and (high-school) student mobilizing in Cleveland, OH

"Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public." Dr. Cornell West

The Seniors and I have been tackling the origins of race and racism in Humanities.  Last week, we spent two days in rigorous seminars in which we discussed Jim Crow Laws, the lack of Indictment for Officer Wilson, the shooting of Tamir Rice, James Baldwin's "Letter to my Nephew" and the Principles of Nonviolent Resistance. I drove home on Tuesday, feeling spent and simultaneously aware that I get to "go home" in a way that our students of color do not.  As I was driving home on the Shoreway, police lights caught my eyes up ahead, and as I came out from underneath an underpass, I saw a mass of people move onto the highway.

I met eyes with a protestor who waved to me in invitation. I jumped out of the car, grateful for the opportunity to stand in solidarity, and joined in the powerful song of so many voices chanting "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice, No Peace" or perhaps "Know Justice, Know Peace." We walked East along the Shoreway among dozens of stopped cars while other people began to block traffic heading in the opposite direction.  

Just when I thought my heart could not swell up any more,  I heard a familiar voice say "Ms.Hayes!" I turned around just in time to receive hugs from two of our seniors, Dion and Corey.


I was so honored to be marching alongside these young men, and to see them share their experience on Monday with their classmates. Dion later said, "I felt that we let the whole city know that we should not, and will not, let injustice continue. I feel like we made history that day, and I am so proud of Cleveland." Similar peaceful protests took place all over the country--in NYC, LA, Atlanta, Boston and other major cities and small towns. 

May we be reminded by the words of Dr. Cornell West that our work--from the minutiae of our tone when speaking to an individual student to the massive task of transforming society--must spring from the same origin.

Ms. Danielle Hayes 
Teacher | Humanities & Photography
Saint Martin de Porres High School 

Cleveland, Ohio 44102