The last edition of the Whitney High School newspaper, “The Wildcat’s Tale,” this year is dedicated to the student body’s advocacy for the Black Lives Matter’s movement. In the span of three days, the school newspaper collected 26 total submissions, ranging from artwork, poetry and writing, from both faculty and students.
However, this publication is unique, as Isabel Sarmiento and I, who both serve as the club’s co-presidents, made the executive decision to open the submissions to all Whitney students, not solely club members. The purpose of the publication is to amplify Black voices and provide a more formal platform for student activism, awareness spread, reports of local protests and support for the movement.
Although every previous issue of the newspaper was edited by our student editors and section leads, the school administration ultimately had the final say in whether we were allowed to publish certain controversial topics.
However, for this Black Lives Matter issue, the school administration has respectfully concluded that students’ writings advocating for anti-racism and racial equality are a human rights issue that cannot be censored. Thus, assistant principal Dr. Larry Natividad and principal Mr. John Briquelet, allowed students to publish their original, unedited work to avoid diluting their emotional and powerful words.
Students submitted words of sentiments towards victims of police brutality in May and called for action to combat micro-racism in a school setting. Active student protestors and organizers wrote about their participation in marches and peaceful protests or at-home advocacy, including petition-signing and donating. Those who attended local peaceful protests wrote about their first-hand accounts.
“To the victims of police brutality, their families, and the Black community: I stand with you. I may not be Black, but I stand with you,” Kayla Almero, a senior at Whitney said. “One does not have to be Black to know that the brutality and discrimination that Black people face every day is absolutely inhumane and disgusting.“
As submissions were turned in, Sarmiento and I realized that our publication was less of a newspaper edition, but more of an anthology, as we were not publishing strictly articles or columns, but instead a collaborative collection of both writing and artwork.
An anthology requires a cover, so we asked our artistically-talented friend and classmate, Ashley Gong, to design one that represents an alliance between our school mascot, which is a wildcat, with a black panther. Because Gong is an active supporter of the movement, she was happy to utilize her talents in support of the cause.
The cover is in honor of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two unfortunate victims of police brutality; their names wrap around a shadowed fist, the emblem of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The title, “Hear Us Roar: Black Lives Matter” and George Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” surround it. The anthology can be read here.