Mount Abe raises Black Lives Matter flag

BRISTOL RESIDENT BRIGETTE Moralez-Giron, a 10th-grader at Mount Abraham Union High School, spoke at a school ceremony celebrating Black lives Friday morning, then joined Principal Shannon Warden in raising the Black Lives Matter flag. Students at the school have been learning about systemic racism and inclusivity in advisory this month.

Racial inequality and discrimination are social problems in the United States that sadly do not seem to end.
— Brigette Moralez-Giron, Mount Abe 10th-grader

BRISTOL — Two years after passing a resolution to do so, Mount Abraham Union High School raised a Black Lives Matter flag this past Friday morning.
“Today I want to say that Black lives matter,” said Bristol 10th-grader Brigette Moralez-Giron in a speech before the flag raising. “Racial inequality and discrimination are social problems in the United States that sadly do not seem to end.
“New cases of racial crime continue to occur every day in this country … which claims to have liberty and justice for all in its pledge of allegiance.”
Founded in 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement advocates for an end to racially motivated police and vigilante violence against Black people.
About two-dozen people attended the Mount Abe ceremony, a mix of masked and physically distanced students, educators and community members, including State Rep. Mari Cordes, D-Lincoln, who filmed the flag raising and shared it with her constituents on social media.
Facing down a brisk northerly wind, Moralez-Giron stood near the foot of the flagpole and described her experiences with racism.
“Growing up as a Black kid is not that easy,” she said. “My whole childhood I grew up hearing people asking my parents why I’m Black, and (saying) I don’t belong with them because my skin is darker. I grew up hearing people making fun of my hair … watching the way people were looking at me when I’m walking and shopping or talking. And I am sure I am not the only Black girl people have made feel insecure because of the way we look.”
Speaking to the diversity of the Black Lives Matter movement, which she said is not just for Black people, Moralez-Giron listed the movement’s guiding principles: restorative justice, empathy, loving engagement, diversity, globalism, transgender-affirming, queer-affirming, collective value, intergenerational, Black families, Black villages, Black women, unapologetically Black.
She was joined at the podium by her sister Nina, an eighth-grader at Mount Abe’s middle school, who translated each of the guiding principles into Spanish.
After helping Moralez-Giron raise the flag, Mount Abe Principal Shannon Warden offered closing remarks.
“Today, while we aren’t physically standing together, we stand together in solidarity for our friends, colleagues, classmates and neighbors of color,” Warden said. “Today we reflect on our learning about racism, bias and inequality and the work that lies ahead to better understand each other … It is with great empathy, compassion, kindness and love in our hearts that we will continue to push our thinking and that we continue to make our world more inclusive and accepting of people of color, one school, one community and one flag-raising at a time.”
Moralez-Giron was grateful for the opportunity to speak and to help raise the flag, she said afterward.
Generally speaking, she feels like the community has been supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I have seen so many protests against racism,” she said. “But it is very important to have more people supporting us because so many Black people don’t have the opportunity to raise their voices.”
Starksboro 11th-grader Abby Johnson, who helped organize the event and invited the Independent to attend, echoed her schoolmate’s words.
“We will need more community support and energy,” she said. “High school students are only here for four years, and we can’t sustain this by themselves.”
According to a media release issued by collaborating student-teacher groups earlier this month, a proposal to raise the flag was passed in 2018 by the school’s Community Council, which is made up of students, faculty, community members and school board representatives. 
But then nothing happened for two years. 
Finally, this fall, the Community Council, along with Mount Abe Student Activists (MASA) and the school’s Diversity and Equity Committee, worked to bring the original proposal to fruition.
“We believe that Mt. Abraham needs to put more effort into becoming an actively antiracist institution,” the media release said. “We believe that action steps such as educational resources, diverse curriculum, and the elevation of local Black, Indigenous, People of Colors’ voices will aid in this endeavor.”
This month Mount Abe students have spent time in advisory learning about systemic racism and the importance of diversity.
“We will continue this work past the raising of the flag and we hope that our community will join us in our effort to make Mt. Abe an even stronger school,” students and teachers wrote. “In a time of such polarization and hate, BIPOC students deserve to feel safe, protected, and celebrated. Because their safety is intertwined with ours, their happiness is intertwined ours, their victories are intertwined with ours.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected] 

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