Pink Popsicles for Justice by Youma Diabira (280)
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
I grew up with 5 siblings in my house. For as long as I could remember, I’ve had to advocate for myself. Whether it be to get the only pink popsicle in the freezer or which bed I wanted on the bunk bed my older sister and I shared. Growing up in the Philadelphia School District, I’ve had to advocate for safe environments for me to learn in. I went from fighting over freeze pops to fighting against racial injustice. I am now a senior at Central High School. I first attended Masterman Magnet School in Center City. I left due to the lack of black students and teachers in the building. I had little to no support as a black student at Masterman. I remember being a member of the “On the Town'' cast my eighth grade year. After getting into a petty altercation with a white cast member, she went and told her mom, who was a volunteer at the time, about her dislike for me. Her mother replied, “You don’t have to worry about her for long. People like her don’t get into high school. That was my final year at Masterman. Upon entering Central I was thrilled at the vast diversity of the building. It had been so long since I had been in a school that had more than ten black kids. I immediately joined Central’s African American Student Union (AASU). At the end of my first year, I was elected Vice president of AASU. As the seniors who nurtured me into this position left, I realized how little black students were left. My first year on the board we were faced with every obstacle. We first had to fight to hold our annual Black History month showcase. Shortly after winning that fight, we lost our International Day Hallway to the recycling club. Yes, you read that right. Seeing the racism that was inflicted by the administration gave me a new lens to view Central High School. Instead of it being that huge melting pot of cultures and identities, it quickly turned into every other anti-black institution. My junior year, I was promoted to President. We began fighting racism within our school, following several instances of students and teachers targeting black students in the building. Unfortunately, covid-19 hit the world pretty hard around March and resulted in schools being closed indefinitely. After spending hours in meetings discussing how we can change our school climate, everything just stopped. Jobs closed, schools stopped, but racism didn’t. On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by racist residents of Georgia. On March 13, Breonna Taylor was murdered in her bedroom, by police. On May 25, George Floyd was murdered by police. This sparked a revolution. Protests, riots, and petitions. It allowed me, as a black female student in Philadelphia, to understand the result of racist behaviors and attitudes that go unchecked and unaddressed. It allowed me to see the impact of racist children and racist adults. I decided we had to do more. I decided that I had to do more. My first virtual summer turned out to be my busiest. After meeting with other black students at Central who shared my same sentiments we decided we needed to take action. After several zoom calls and much planning, we created 10 Demands for the eradication of anti-blackness within Central High School. After holding a Town Hall, to explain our work to faculty, administration, and alumni, the support was indescribable. Immediately after we began working with the administrative team to implement our demands within the building. I was able to speak at the Educators and Students for Black Lives Protest about the detrimental effects of not having black teachers, not learning black history, and not reading black literature. This was my most productive summer to date. As students, our voices matter. They need to be heard. We deserve more as black students in our schools. Unfortunately, this is not just a district issue, but a national issue too. We have to start somewhere. The anti-black culture of Central High School will be torn away hallway by hallway, whether virtual or in person. Who knew fighting for that pink popsicle would prepare me to help lead an entire movement. I got my pink popsicle. I’m hoping to get justice next.