One Year Since Blackout: Reflection From Umoja Leader


via Communications

Mariama Diallo speaks about the blackout in this year’s MLK Assembly.

It’s been one year since the schoolwide protest led by students in response to a heinous orchestration of blackface by three members of the Poly community. At the time, myself and numerous other student leaders, namely former seniors Jeovanna and Talisha, didn’t realize that our leadership in peaceful protest would be so meaningful and have such a lasting impact on the social climate at Poly. It was only in recollecting this event, and the year that has since passed, that I was able to understand the true effects of nonviolent protests, which was the theme of this year’s annual MLK Day Assembly. 


Upper School Diversity Coordinator and World Languages teacher Angela Gittens words in particular resonated with me.  “To me, this was one of the most powerful moments in Poly history, in seeing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy in action, and how the student leaders sitting right here made their voices heard and taught the entire school, Poly Prep, how to take a stand in non-violent protest.”


Echoing Gittens’ sentiment, it was marvelous to learn first-hand that nonviolent protest had proven to be effective and successful in addressing the issues important to the Black community at Poly. For me, the day was about reflection and being proud of what the community has accomplished together, while still holding ourselves accountable to do more. My peers, seniors Kayla White and Emmalee Burford, accomplished just that. They held the administration accountable for the amount of progress we have made when they reread the list of demands that came alongside last year’s sit-in and a brief statement for each one regarding if sufficient action had been taken. 


We’ve acknowledged that there is a long way for the community to go, but the one-year anniversary of the day we demanded change was a day for celebration. MLK’s legacy was honored, and the assembly ended in everyone standing, as a pact of solidarity from the student body, and committed to always moving forward.