The Sidwell Friends community stands up to racism and police brutality in 2020.
“I’m doing this because I’m the parent of two black children,” said Amanda Derryck Castel ’91 (parent of Olivia ’21 and Alexander ’24) at the Sidwell Friends peaceful protest on June 8. “I worry about them and their future and safety. Also it’s important for us to be out here as a community to show them that we have to put actions behind our words.” After the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arberry at the hands of police in May, that’s exactly what the School aimed to do: put action to its words. Sidwell Friends strives to teach equality and to eliminate racism; this took expression in the in the form of a silent protest—or not so silent given the boisterous honking of support by passing cars—on a weather-perfect June evening. Sidwell Friends families and community members carried signs, kept six feet apart, and created a human chain to promote awareness of systemic racism and the work of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was supposed to extend from the Wisconsin Avenue campus to the Naval Observatory on Massachusetts Avenue. It ended up reaching all the way to R Street and Massachusetts.
“Coming from Southeast Washington where this happens all the time, I’ve been a victim of police brutality myself,” said Eric Singletary ’93 (parent of Aaron ’23). “So to have my community, which is Sidwell, my alma mater, show their long-standing commitment to justice, civil rights, and equality for all, is important. We’re out here showing solidarity.” The event was also a chance for young people to get involved safely, and many parents brought their Lower School students along. “Equality and justice are incredibly important to our family and always have been,” said Aman Sidhu (parent of Noor ’28 and Ajuni ’28). “As a South Asian family and Sikh by religion, we have faced hate crimes and discrimination in this country, and it’s only a fraction of the experience of the African American community. So, it’s incredibly important to stand with our black brothers and sisters and make it very clear that black lives matter. We’re here to fight for equality. For Sidwell to stand up and send that message loud and clear is a reflection of why we chose Sidwell for our children.” And of course, students themselves took to the streets. “I’m doing this because I think it’s very important to spread awareness of injustice and systematic oppression,” said Spencer Tyson ’21. Others said it was important to be there to amplify the voices of black people, or because it was simply the right thing to do, or because equal rights shouldn’t be preconditioned on race. All agreed that their presence signaled one vital concept for certain: Black lives matter.
I am heartbroken because black and indigenous people have been assimilated into a society that will shoot us dead for nothing. The rectification for theft is restitution; the rectification for slavery is liberation. Murder is not rectifiable.
—lian Craig ’21
I am angry because nothing changes.
—Isaac Pickrum ’21
I am strong (empowered) because I have a voice.
I am heartbroken because I still see racism and white supremacy in my communities.
I am motivated because I believe in our generation.
—Atswei Laryea ’21
I am heartbroken because so much of this country still does not understand that, at the very least, no human being should be denied their basic human rights.
I am motivated because, in adversity, the resilience of the oppressed inspires and offers hope.
—Molina Dew-Brunis ’23
I am strong because to be a black woman in America today is a tug of war. If the other side loses, they go home, alive, breathing. If I lose, I don’t get to go home. I die. I have no other choice than to be strong.
—Karabelo Bowsky ’23
I am angry because I can’t count how many times I’ve watched blood spill from a lifeless body when their blackness was seen as a threat, and because a life of necessary activism isn’t the life I would have chosen.
I am strong because I recognize the privileges I have and can use them to fight for those who cannot.
I am heartbroken because I can’t remember or don’t know the names of every man, woman, and child who has lost their life to America’s structurally racist system.
—Kennedy Fleming ’21
I am heartbroken because justice isn’t being served. I was 8 when Trayvon Martin was killed. Now I am 16, and the only change is the media coverage. It should not take eight years for people to get that racism exists—I’ve known since I was a kid.
—Adeoluwa Fatukasi ’21
In 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Richard Nixon was sworn in as president, the national meeting of Students for a Democratic Society was overrun by fringe activists known as the Weathermen, the Stonewall riots in New York City sparked the gay-rights movement, Vietnam was in full swing, and a farm in upstate New York hosted the most famous rock concert in history. Also in 1969: the establishment of the Black Student Union at Sidwell Friends. A half a century later, in 2020, climate change is re-sculpting the face of the planet, a global pandemic is threatening humanity’s health and well-being, Americans are facing one of the most polarized political moments in modern history, and epic international protests demanding racial equality and an end to police brutality are hitting the streets. Also in 2020, the Sidwell Friends Black Student Union is publishing a new magazine: 1969.
The first issue is an extension of the 2020 Black Student Union performance, And the Beat Goes On…, with a focus on exploring racial stereotypes in music and music’s influence within the Civil Rights movement. The magazine also takes a deep dive into the arts writ large, with interviews with alumni artists like Lory Ivey Alexander ’97, Ericka Blount Danois ’90, and Cheryl Derricotte ’83, all of whose work explores black life and American identity. 1969 editor-in-chief Adeoluwa Fatukasi ’21 took inspiration from the School’s archives. “In the past, students have proposed a Harlem Renaissance class, hosted DMV go-gos, and taken trips to Six Flags,” says Fatukasi. “The year of 1982 stood out to me the most, as students created The Earthquaker, a magazine made to uplift black students’ voices in the Upper School.” With 1969, she hopes to reignite that spirit and reach an even broader audience.
To see the full issue of 1969, go to sidwell.edu/student-publications.
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