Wow, this is so empowering. A Rochester, NY high school’s first black valedictorian was banned from giving a speech at his graduation, so the mayor stepped in & gave him a new platform to deliver his powerful speech.
Jaisaan Lovett was the first black valedictorian of the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men in Rochester, NY, but for unknown and suspicious reasons, the school’s principal, Joseph Munno, barred him for speaking at the school’s graduation. Luckily, Jaisaan had a friend in a high place — Mayor Lovely Warren — who he interned for during his time at UPrep. The mayor invited him to deliver his message to a much wider audience on the city’s official YouTube channel, broadcast from City Hall. While the brilliant and hardworking student, who is heading to Clark Atlanta University on a full scholarship, thanked his parents and friends for their support, he also had a message for Munno. “To Mr. Munno, my principal, there’s a whole lot of things I’ve wanted to say to you for a long time. … I’m here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. I’m still here, and I’m still here strong. And after all these years, all this anger I’ve had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself. And I forgive you for everything I held against you.”
In an interview with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Jaisaan said he was never asked to give a graduation speech, but it was commonplace for valedictorians to do so at UPrep. “He didn’t want to see the speech or what it said, nothing. He just said no,” he told the paper. Ahead of his speech, Mayor Warren said a few words, and slammed the school for their decision to not let Jaisaan speak. “Unfortunately, Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech. For some reason, his school — in a country where freedom of speech is a constitution right, and the city of Frederick Douglass — turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain,” she declared. “Jaisaan will never graduate from high school again. He will never get that moment back. This is not the time to punish a child because you may not like what he has to say.”
Jaisaan claimed that he may have been shutdown after he protested for more safety equipment at the school lab. In a follow-up Facebook post when she shared the speech, Mayor Warren wrote, “He nor his parents were ever given a reason (why he wasn’t allowed to give the speech). I called the principal but to my knowledge he never called me back. He and Jaisaan didn’t have a great relationship and it was his last chance to show him who was boss. He worked hard for this opportunity and his mom and dad were in tears that there was nothing that they could do from the audience. They weren’t going to ruin it for everyone else.” Principal Munno has yet to comment, but UPrep’s Board of Trustees shared on Facebook that they would be “reviewing the circumstances regarding what happened.”