By Idalia Alvarez and Jessica Osornio, Wayside summer interns who helped to organize the protest at Huguenot High School last week in which 70 student, parents and community supporters gathered to demand an end to discrimination in Richmond Public Schools.
On Thursday, June 13th, students, families and supporters gathered at Huguenot High School to protest racism, discrimination, and a lack of interpreters. The protest was organized partly in response to an incident in which Latin@ students were singled out based on their race, threatened with deportation, searched, humiliated, and escorted in small groups to their buses. ?He told us we didn?t want the police because then they?d discover the illegals and then immigration would come,? she said. According to several students, minorities at the school receive different treatment and are more harshly disciplined. ?They grabbed my stuff and they just started dumping it out on the table. Everybody, they even patted the guys down,? said Villatoro.
We met several times before the protest. After discussing and putting together all the issues at the school, we wrote a paper that listed all the demands. We then met with the principal Mr. Jafar Barakat, and talked about what the paper said. At this meeting we had parents, teachers, administrators, staff and students who were interested in having the issues addressed by the school and by the principal. ?“I felt like a volcano erupting,? Villatoro stated when asked how it felt to tell the principal what was on her mind. Zulma said she felt humiliated because her being an honor student was put in a situation she did not belong. Being searched was not right to do to her because she is a role model to her fellow classmates and was invisible before this incident occurred.? Mr. Jafar Barakat did discuss some of the issues but gave no concrete plan of action to address them.
We didn?t stop here. We want to see real change and not until the changes and our goal are met we will stop fighting for what?s right. We are not going to deal with the racism and discrimination anymore. The next day we had the peaceful protest that Jonathan Villatoro says was ?to show the principal [Mr. Barakat] that he really can?t be pushing the Hispanic community around and think that there won?t be any reprisals or price to pay? and it went amazing.? Some of the people stood there with signs that contained demands, quotes, and messages the community wanted the school to see. Some parents had messages that include, ?Translate Grievance Procedure? and ?Respeto por nuestras culturas y costumbres,? which translates to ?Respect our cultures and customs.?
I, Idalia Alvarez had a sign that said, ?Mi privacidad es mi derecho!? Which translates to ?My privacy is my right!? Even though I do not attend Huguenot, I am a supporter of the cause. The reason I got involved in this peaceful protest was because I was there at one of the meetings with the parents along with the students of the school. I heard what the students had been going through and also all the acts of discrimination and injustice that were being performed at that high school. This is something I am completely against as I am also a Latina student in Richmond City Schools and in a way this affects me because it could have been my school.
And I, Jessica Osornio, as the Valedictorian from Huguenot High School for the 2013 school year was also supporting the cause and my community. I held a sign that said ?Interpretation Services Now!? The reason I put up the sign was because most of the Hispanic community struggles with the language barriers, and we demand that they do something about it. We ask to have this service mainly for the parents who want to communicate their grievances to the school administrators, and staff. I felt like it was the right thing to do, because I will never forget my roots and the struggle my people face day by day. ?Other people, they look down on you just because you are a minority ? I wanted to show people that we?re equally smart, and have the same rights. Being at the school for four years. I had friends who were personal victims of these situations. I was not aware that this happened all throughout as I wasn?t affected because of the advanced classes I had and was not involved with the ESL students. This shows that they were specially targeted for discrimination as its harder for them to speak up for themselves.
We are not stopping here! We will keep fighting for what?s right and standing up for our community and against the discrimination and racism we face.