Stop Racism at New World School of the Arts!
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Sunday, July 26, 2020
Dear New World School of the Arts College and High School;
As a public magnet High School and College, designed to engage gifted students in Visual Arts, Dance, Theatre, and Music, a legacy born out of an experiment between PAVAC and Miami Dade College, you’ve grown into a nationally known institution in pursuit of arts excellence. Often ranked as one of the best high schools in the nation, your alumni, faculty, and current students continue to bolster the name and reputation of the institution around the world.
That is why this letter, written by the Black Alumni Council, signed by many more, is deeply important and timely.
We have, over the past few weeks, only begun to scratch the surface of racially charged stories, instances, and engagements from former and current students. These accounts point out the dangerous ways Black students have been treated, traumatized by, and expelled from New World. Indeed, we have been shocked to listen to our children, friends, and former students lament stories of racial profiling, microaggressions from those charged with their care, and outright neglect for their physical well-being.
When brought to the attention of the school blame was shifted between the entities that govern the institution. The school is jointly administered by Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College, and the University of Florida. The administrative structure includes an executive board with representatives from each of the partners as well as community seats and a foundation board. The paramount job of these institutions, as well as the board, is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the students who are called to the sometimes exhausting and dangerous task of art making.
Where were they when a student walked back from the science building bloody, cheek swollen after a white student had pelleted them with rocks? Where were they when students were lined up in a theatre class by skin tone, ‘from darkest to lightest’ to prove some theoretic point about race? Where were they when countless students asked for a Black Student Union and were told that New World was not Edison (a Black School in Miami)? Where were they when a student reported faculty using the N-Word? Where were they when the principal confessed to repeating the N-Word, even when the student asked them to stop? Where were the apologies and reassurances of their safety? Why must we sit through the tears and excuses of white deans, teachers, and administration in order to get clarity and assurance on the safety and sensitivity around our Black students in the school? Why are their white peers finding the courage and feeling it necessary to form layers of protection in school and on social media against the very institution designated to keep them all safe?
These stories from students reach as far back as the founding of the institution, and speak of indiscriminate disregard for Black culture and community even when the school was founded by engaging PAVAC programs rooted in the heart of some Miami’s oldest Black communities.
Though some efforts in past administrations were made to mitigate and suppress a culture of supremacy and anti-Blackness, the situation at current has become untenable. New World’s primacy must be the safety of all its students, and if its Black Lives Matter statement is to be believed, that most certainly means the lives of its Black Students. And at current, New World is failing.
It fails when students feel safer to report bullying tactics done by the administration online than to the institution. It fails when students are afraid to call their parents for fear that the attention will diminish their position in Chorus or Jazz Band. It fails when students are afraid to report inappropriate relationships between students and faculty and are told ‘that’s just the way it has been’.
Start Now. This School Year. Today. This Hour. Begin by showing your current students and a generation of Alumni, that you understand that the most complete and powerful path towards arts education is only achieved in a safe and anti-racist environment.
As we all hasten towards a new school year, unsure of so much, we know that the safety of New World School of the Arts students is at the forefront of your thinking and preparation, now more than ever. Here is a chance to engage with ALL the dangers that may challenge the health and well-being of our students be it physical, mental, or spiritual.
Meanwhile, we will continue to engage the incidents and stories of Black students, help them find ways to heal and hope past the encounters some may have suppressed. We will organize around the purpose of protecting those marginalized and disenfranchised and come to you, in good faith, to hear and plan how the institution hopes to turn the page on the next chapter of New World School of the Arts.
We openly, sincerely, await your response.
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