Personnel at a New Jersey high school were confounded by community opposition to its junior class “spirit week” charity fundraiser, the funds for which are designated to Black Lives Matter.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the class’s decision “touched off a furor” in the 90-percent-white Camden County town as some complained BLM is “politically affiliated.” As such, the donations would violate school policy. (Other “charities” considered were the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.)
In the hopes of “bringing peace,” junior class adviser Rachel Gould agreed to include a second charity, Feed My Starving Children. However, she (and the class) had a change of mind last Wednesday and kept the Philadelphia chapter of Black Lives Matters as the sole recipient.
”It hurt to hear of this opposition,” said Haddonfield Student Council VP Jada Hargro who had organized a BLM protest in town after George Floyd’s death. Jennifer Sheran of the Haddonfield Antiracist Coalition added she ”was disappointed to hear there was pushback,” but said the class’s decision to stick to its first choice “shows that we’re a community willing to better ourselves and learn from our mistakes.”
[Junior class delegate Jane] Kinney said adding a second charity would have diluted the message about BLM. Cheatham believed some in the community were unaware that the donations are earmarked for BLM through the Movement Alliance Project in Philadelphia, a 501(c)3. Dec. 6 is the deadline for donations.
The district agreed, saying in [a] letter from Gould, [Principal Tammy] McHale, and Superintendent Charles Klaus that adding a second charity inadvertently undermined the class’ choice and the importance of fund-raising toward social justice initiatives.
”I’m not backing down from anyone who is opposed to Black Lives Matter,” said Gould. “I’m very supportive of our kids.”
Spirit week typically lasts for a week and includes hall decorating and ends with a pep rally where the winner is announced. McHale said the school has not decided how it will be handled this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Principal McHale said the students involved are “activists [who] want to make a difference.” The district letter “apologized for the brouhaha” and noted “an attempt to appease a few became an insult to many …”
The Inquirer asked Rowan University’s Shelley Zion, director of the Center for Access, Success, and Equity, for her take on the matter; she blamed America’s 400-year history of racism for the “resistance” to Black Lives Matter.
According to her faculty page, Zion advocates a ‘transformation” of public education in order to “disrupt dominant ideologies by creating spaces in which people begin to develop a critical understanding of the cultural, political, economic, and other institutional forces that perpetuate systems of privilege and oppression.”
IMAGE: Teacher Dude / Flickr.com