“I love what the kids did,” Cawley responded. “The kids took an idea and they followed through it with a purpose and a passion, which is what we do in education and athletics that are education-based. We want to harness their dedication and passion and not step on it.”
In 30 years, when these girls are asked about their best moments on the basketball court, this project might be in their answer, Cawley said.
“I think it’s the difference they made in the community as opposed to how many points they scored, games they won, or championships they would have won,” Cawley said. “There is nothing more important they are going learn in their lives than what’s right here. I stand by it.”
“As an institution, we want to build character and values in our students that include acceptance and understanding,” Vance responded. “This project was student-driven, student-created, and showed a level of understanding of society as a whole. Those are things we want to develop in our kids.”
“I am so proud of the vinyl on that floor,” the principal added. “What Miyah, Ellie and Maeve did was an amazing display of our culture at Rogers. We are trying to do the best for all of our kids.”
Leary asked whether other groups would be allowed to put down a logo for their causes.
As an example, he said there are many military families in the school district. If a group of students wanted to put down a logo for disabled veterans, he asked if that would be allowed.
“We definitely would want to have conversations about that project, how it was created, and how it moved forward,” Vance said. “I would not get in the way if it was seen as valuable by the students.”
“I know we can’t throw a hundred things on the basketball court, but as a school and a community, we are so welcoming and understanding that we would definitely find a way to get it in that school to make sure everyone knows we stand for everybody and that we support everybody,” Brooks said.
School Committee Chairman Raymond Gomes said it did not matter how high up the students went in the approval process.
“You could have kept asking for permission, but I don’t think the outcome would have been any different,” Gomes told the students. “I applaud you and welcome your voices and your thoughts. Congratulations on a great project and representing your school well.”
“I thank the students and teachers for coming together and putting it on the floor of the gym,” said School Committee member Louisa Boatwright. “It’s great stuff.”
“I see this as a history lesson,” she explained. “I think it is very important for us to explore the history of Blacks in America that has been going on for 400 years. That includes kidnapping them and bringing them here as slaves all the way to George Floyd and our prison system today.”
The prison population of the U.S. was 270,000 in the 1970s and has 2.3 million today, “of which 70% are of color,” Boatwright said.
“I’ve heard people question this move,” said School Committee member Stephanie Winslow. “Can we allow it, does it set a precedent? What about other causes? Anytime someone asks me about the Black Lives Matter logo, my response is to say that if they are uncomfortable or resentful, they should recognize the negative reaction as a call to personal action. Educate yourself, listen, read, Google — explore with an open heart and open mind. The story is long, often inspiring, and too often brutal. It deserves your attention.”
“I hope that those listening will appreciate that we are trying to educate ourselves, to be anti-racist and empathize will all people in our community, and to have respect for different cultures and experiences,” Winslow added.