Raising awareness

Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks at H-F amidst blackface controversy

On May 7, civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson came to H-F to speak with students regarding the video that went viral in which three students wore blackface.

Jackson is the founder of Rainbow Push, a non-profit civil rights organization. He worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the SCLC and was one of the most influential African-Americans of the late 20th century.

The assembly was held in the auditorium with a panel that included Rev. Janette C. Wilson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Principal Dr. Jerry Lee Anderson, Superintendent Dr. Von Mansfield and a few students.

Jackson told students that if they see evidence of racism to remove it and “race is not a problem, racism is a problem.”

The blackface post outraged many students and members of the community. Students on the panel were given a chance to voice their opinions and share reactions to the video.

“When I first heard about it I felt numb. I was disappointed and upset, but I wasn’t very surprised because of how prevalent racism and racist acts have been in the past few months,” senior Laila Malak said. “But I am hopeful that through conversations like this we can move forward as a community and school.”

The H-F community is one in which people of many different races, colors, and backgrounds reside and some found it difficult to believe this incident would happen in their neighborhood.

“This was something I never thought I would have to experience,” sophomore Alexandria Porter said. “But after hearing everything the administration, students, and teachers said I was more understanding to the situation. I do feel somewhat disrespected, but we need to work together to solve this problem.”

Jackson discussed the importance of unity and not allowing race to be a dividing factor. He also said students need to prevent permitting racist actions break their spirits.

“Excellence is a weapon,” he said. “Strong minds break strong chains.”

Upon hearing about the blackface incident Jackson said that he was not surprised, but was disturbed by the images, which is why he contacted the administration talk with students. He emphasized the importance of not reacting to situations like this in a negative way.

“We must not respond to blackface issues by acting as negatively and as sickly as they act,” Jackson said. “They must seek forgiveness and we must seek to forgive, redeem and move on. All of us make mistakes we are not proud of, so let’s learn to live and go forward by hope.”

Jackson also told seniors that exercising their right to vote is necessary in order to make the changes that are important to them.

Dr. Anderson concluded the assembly by telling students to stay strong and to learn from this experience.

“We can’t let this break us. My greatest hope is we will learn, grow, and be stronger and better as a result of this crisis,” Anderson said. “We are going to find a way to put this behind and move on…what I can tell you from my own personal experience is that we can be successful and we will not let hate stop or divide us, we have to make that choice.”