Photo courtesy of Tara Davoodi
Numerous Whitman students wore black attire to school on October 15 as part of the county-wide demonstration “Wear Black on Friday” in solidarity against racism in MCPS.
High school-affiliated Black Student Unions and Minority Scholars Programs across Montgomery County organized the movement in light of a recent discovery of racist graffiti at Walter Johnson High School. Community members found vandalism that included the words “white pride” on Walter Johnson’s campus and the surrounding pedestrian bridge on October 3.
“We wanted to signal to BIPOC students they have a community behind them, and that this kind of hate won’t be tolerated,” said MSP Co-President Christina Limansky, a senior. “The number of people wearing black and supporting this cause shows that we are not going to stand for hate and racism against our peers.”
The identities of those who vandalized Walter Johnson’s property remain unknown, but in a letter sent to the community on the same day community members found the graffiti, Walter Johnson Principal Jennifer Baker warned of “disciplinary consequences” for any students involved with the hate-based act.
Some Whitman students, like senior Leyla Nester, were unsatisfied with what they believed was a lack of concrete action from the Walter Johnson administrators concerning the vandalism. Nester, who was among the students who donned black clothing at school on Friday, saw the “Wear Black” movement as a symbol of unity against prejudice in the school system.
“I hope we get the Walter Johnson administration to see that the consequences for actions like these have to be much more severe,” Nester said.
Over the past two years, the Whitman community has experienced three instances of racist graffiti incidents. Limansky said she believes that these hateful incidents have repeated themselves due to Whitman’s lack of diversity.
“There is a lack of knowledge and education among students because people of color are a minority in Bethesda schools,” Limansky said. “The lack of POC contributes to the ignorance surrounding them.”
Whitman Black Student Union President Austin Mboijana, a senior, said he believes that there’s not only a pattern of ignorant actions in the Bethesda area but that the community consistently fails to properly act against them. Mboijana hopes that the “Wear Black” demonstration will call Walter Johnson administrators to implement more severe measures against hate and ensure that students of color feel comfortable in their learning environments, he said.
“By showing solidarity within the community, we can help set a precedent for a county-wide change,” Mboijana said.