Public schools across Seattle held Black Lives Matter rallies before the school day began Wednesday. Two thousand students, educators and parents donned Black Lives Matter shirts and held banners to signify the importance of the movement in schools, spawning the hashtag #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool.
Some shirts read “We Stand Together,” the Seattle Times reported. Others were emblazoned with the hashtag “#SayHerName,” an allusion to Sandra Bland, the black woman who died while being held in police custody in 2015. The rally was endorsed by the Seattle Educators Council, the Seattle PTSA board, Social Equality Educators and the Seattle NAACP. It was held on Seattle Public Schools’ Day of Unity, a day aimed at raising awareness about racial inequality in schools.
“Some of our students, particularly the black and brown students, are aware of what’s happening in our community locally and beyond and are greatly affected by it,” read a statement on the rally from Cascadia Elementary School. “They are looking to us to affirm that school is, in fact, a safe place and that the caring adults in their community value them and their life. That is why we say, undeniably, that we believe black lives matter.”
The rally is the most recent step in a movement by Seattle schools to confront racism and deal with the city’s inherent inequality. Seattle schools have the largest achievement gap between black and white students in the state and the fifth largest in the country, the Seattle Times reported. Black students test one and a half grade levels below the nation’s average and are three and a half grade levels behind their white peers. Seattle schools are largely segregated by race, leading to an uneven distribution of resources for students.
Racist incidents are prevalent throughout Seattle as well. A racial assault inside a Seattle Starbucks was captured on surveillance cameras in May. In June, a threatening, profanity-filled note was left on a black family’s porch, telling them in explicit language to “leave this country that’s ours!” An event called “Black Men Unite to Change the Narrative” at Seattle’s John Muir Elementary was canceled last month due to threats.