Eighth-grader Allie Idelson stood closely by her friend Aislinn Russell on a recent Thursday morning, taking in the somber sight unfolding before her eyes.
In the courtyard of the Science Education & Research Facility, students from Josh Adler’s PRIDE Options class stood on top of the cement blocks, each holding a sign bearing the image, name, age and cause of death of a black person who lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement officials.
During snack, students were drawn in by the large hand-painted “Black Lives Matter” banner and walked through the courtyard reading the signs, reacting with empathy for what they observed.
“It’s truly unbelievable,” Aislinn said. “People hear about it on the news and forget about it. Seeing this many people all in one place talking about it is really powerful.”
Added Allie: “You hear about this on the news, but seeing it here all together and all for the same cause—they’re being killed for no reason, just because of the color of their skin—it’s terrible.”
Josh said students in his PRIDE Options class wanted to speak to the issue of police brutality, specifically the disproportionate number of people of color, most of them unarmed, who are killed by police in this country.
“We wanted to do something that drew immediate attention on campus, sort of direct action, awareness raising. It was really inspired by the sit-ins of the 1960s,” Josh said, adding that they also discussed the “kiss-ins” staged for marriage equality and the “die-ins” for Black Lives Matter. “I thought the students got the tone right. They were very serious.”
The demonstration resonated with many, including Haider Dhalla, a seventh-grade student of color.
“Seeing all of this is really painful,” he said. “It hurts a lot. Knowing that useless objects—a cell phone—can be mistaken for a gun, it’s depressing. Seeing my peers do this, it makes me very proud.”
A classroom in the Project Pavilion remained open that day for students and faculty to reflect, write messages and watch Black Live Matter videos.