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black lives matter

Openness to Learn Cultivates a Sense of Optimism

Blog Type:  Social and Emotional Issues Date Posted:  Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Black High School Student’s Experience on a Predominantly White Campus

By Aliyah Knudsen

When I was a freshman, I went to St Mary’s High School in Lynn, Mass. It’s a brick building that looks like a prison, but not in a bad way. A lot of the students are children of immigrants: first-generation Americans who are just trying to live up to the expectations of their parents, who moved to Massachusetts to give them better lives. Most of my classmates came from low-income houses and they struggled in school. When I talked to my friends, I said things like “sup ‘cuz” and “is mad brick outside.” As a Black student, my year at St. Mary’s was the first time that I was surrounded by more students who looked like me than didn’t. I didn’t stick out. No one paid more attention to me just because of the color of my skin. I was just another one of the Black kids. 

Fast-forward one year and I was a sophomore, starting once again at a new school: Landmark High School. I came to Landmark to figure out strategies to help me learn better. I had always struggled with paying attention in school and understanding the content I was being taught. Starting my year at a new school was tough, but it was made even harder by the fact that I felt like I had to consciously change a lot of things about myself. I had to dress differently and speak differently. I went from feeling like I blended in to feeling like eyes were on me at all times. At Landmark, everyone knows who I am whether I’ve talked to them before or not. Teachers constantly tell me to “keep my head down.” When they say that, they’re telling me to mind my business, do my work, and stay out of trouble. Sometimes I wonder if they say that to white students too. Or do they just also realize that I’m more likely to get in trouble for something because I stand out? 

Racial Climate Creates Expectations

I’ve always known I was different from most of the other students at Landmark, but I never felt that different until this year. Something that’s changed this year is that students expect me to constantly have something to say about every race-related issue on campus. Whenever another student says something that they shouldn’t, people always come up to me and say “Did you hear this person said that?” or “Can you believe it?” Not only that, people walk on eggshells around me, like they’re afraid that they’re going to slip up and call me a racial slur. I've learned the difference between students who are simply uneducated about race-related issues in America and students who don’t care about becoming educated. I would like to make it clear: I envy those who have the privilege to not care. I would love to not have to have another conversation about why saying “Black Lives Matter” is not a political statement but instead is a human-rights movement. 

Why Black Lives Matter

When people tell me they don’t understand why “only” Black lives matter, I tell them to think about this: if there’s one building on fire in a neighborhood, the fire department will help the house on fire. They’re not going to spend time spraying their hoses at the houses that aren’t on fire because those houses don’t need their help. This is what I think about when I hear people say “all lives matter.” No one is saying that they don’t, but they’re saying that there’s a community on fire and they need everyone’s help to put the fire out.

Willingness to Foster a Sense of Support and Belonging

Being a member of a minority race in a primarily white school has taught me many things. It’s taught me that I need to be more aware of my actions because I can’t get away with the same things as other students can. It’s taught me that eyes are always going to be on me because I am a minority. It’s taught me that people are going to expect me to be the person who calls people out for making racially charged statements. It’s taught me that a lot of people are going to expect me to educate them instead of taking the time to educate themselves. But it’s also taught me that there are people who are willing to learn. It’s taught me that there are people who are willing to do the work and try to make our campus a place where all students and faculty feel comfortable and supported. 

I’m thankful to go to a school that is willing to have open and honest conversations with their students, and I look forward to seeing what else Landmark has in store for us.

aliyah knudsen











Aliyah James Knudsen is a senior at Landmark High School. In her spare time, she enjoys skateboarding, going to the beach, and traveling. She plans to pursue a career as an emergency medical technician.

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Tags:  black lives matter Landmark School racial justice

Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter Explained

Blog Type:  Social and Emotional Issues Date Posted:  Tuesday, September 15, 2020

black lives matter protest

By Ariel Martin-Cone

Members of the Landmark High School administration crafted a thoughtful and meaningful explanation of the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements for the student body. The article provides clarifying examples that will help students understand the intricacies of the movements, which are often misunderstood.

Black Lives Matter is a peaceful movement working to recognize the importance of the lives of Black Americans and fight for racial justice and equality. The organization Black Lives Matter started in 2013 in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin. Since then, organizers have created a network of people who want to raise awareness of inequality to work toward equal treatment for Black Americans. After the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd this spring, people across the United States and the world joined protests in support of the ideas of and organization behind Black Lives Matter. The phrase "Black Lives Matter" is both very important and often misunderstood.

Don’t all lives matter? 

Black Lives Matter means that Black lives matter as much as any other life—not more, not less. The phrase is important because it focuses attention on the many ways in which Black lives have not been treated with respect or equality throughout the history of the United States. Saying “All Lives Matter” in response to Black Lives Matter doesn’t recognize the specific challenges that Black Americans are facing and can imply that Black people have been treated equally. 

So why do people get upset when someone says All Lives Matter?

Here’s one way to think about it:

“Sonya Renee Taylor, author and founder of "The Body Is Not an Apology," likens it to your wife asking you if she's pretty and you responding 'all people are pretty.' It's probably not going to go over very well in your family, right?," said Taylor. "Your wife is probably going to have a problem with that. Because what she wants in that moment is specificity. You know, what's desired in that moment is to be seen in her unique experience with you. And that's what Black people are asking for right now: to be seen in our unique experience in the world. To actually be seen and valued." (Source: CBS News)

Another example is Breast Cancer Awareness month. When athletes and people across the country wear pink in October to support breast cancer, they are not ignoring lung cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, or any other cancer. They’re calling for specific attention to an important and particular cause.

What about Blue Lives Matter and Back the Blue?

Similar to All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter is often used in contrast or as an argument to Black Lives Matter. The Black Lives Matter movement is not saying that the lives of police officers (or firefighters) are not as important as Black citizens. The goal is equality. Police officer’s lives matter and Black lives matter.  Police departments provide valuable and often dangerous services to our communities and in our country. Black Lives Matter is not anti-police, but police reform is a significant element in the movement, including discussion on how police departments are funded and how we spend money on policing and community support. There is an understandable level of tension between Black Lives Matter protesters and Blue Lives Matter/Back the Blue supporters as many of the protests were sparked by the death or injury of a Black person in a police-involved shooting.

There are endless articles, podcasts, and lesson plans about Black Lives Matter. A sampling of options is below, and we encourage you to read and listen to a wide array of voices and perspectives to better understand the perspective and experience of Black Americans. 

News Articles and Blog Posts about Teenage Activism

Landmark Diversity and Inclusion Advocates Resources


Short Film

Ariel Martin-Cone is the academic dean at Landmark High School.

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