Freshman Kerah Johnson grabs the microphone, ready to share their story with the whole school. Heart racing and fingers quivering, they could barely think straight, but Johnson knew that this had to be done.
As a Black and queer student, Johnson has felt uncomfortable in the school’s environment. Having to face racial and anti-LGBTQ+ slurs and sexual harassment from their peers, Johnson wanted to hold the school’s administration accountable for its inaction.
“I went through a racist incident on campus with another student,” Johnson said. “I went to report the incident, but they didn’t do much about it at first. It took about nine reports to the administration before they removed him from my class.”
Because the administration was not being proactive, Johnson decided to take things into their own hands. Johnson and their friends created an Instagram account, @sghsbipocunion, providing a safe space for students to share their experiences with discrimination and harassment.
“Slurs are a huge problem,” Johnson said. “It’s really frustrating to walk around and hear people saying the n-word and especially when they look at me, one of the only Black people on campus, for validation. After we made the Instagram page, we realized a lot of people had many issues, like racism and sexual harassment, similar to me.”
With positive reactions from their peers, Johnson knew that starting a protest was necessary to get the school’s attention. Although many were supportive of the idea, there were some who believed that the protest would do more harm than good.
“There were some people who messaged us and said terrible things,” Johnson said. “Someone said that we were canceling people and causing problems. They also said we were harassing people, which was obviously not true.”
Nonetheless, Johnson and their friends successfully completed the protest. During the protest, over a hundred students left class, sharing their stories of being discriminated against at the school and showing their solidarity with their peers.
“The protest was meant to be an eye-opener,” Johnson said. “What I wanted for the students, more than anything was to start a conversation about the issues at the school.”