Jaisaan Lovett became the first black student to graduate top of his class and received the coveted ‘valedictorian’ title at his school in New York.
However, the principal of Rochester’s University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men refused to let him give a speech – a tradition in the US.
Lovett, who received a full scholarship to Clark Atlanta University, also works as an intern in the office of Lovely Warren, the mayor of Rochester, New York, and when she heard about the school’s refusal to let him speak, she took it upon herself to give the student a platform.
She gave him City Hall.
In a video that she posted on the office’s Facebook page, she said:
[Jaisaan] tells other students at Rochester that it is possible for them; that it can be done.
Unfortunately, Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech. For some reason, his school – the country where freedom of speech is a constitutional right, and the city of Frederick Douglass – turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.
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.
In the video, Lovett thanks his family and friends for supporting him, and delivers the following message to the principle:
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 strong. And after all these years, all this anger I’ve had towards you and UPrep as a whole, IU realised I had to let that go in order to better myself.
The video went viral, and almost 80,000 have viewed it on YouTube.
In a Facebook post, the school’s board of trustees released a statement about the incident, and said they are ‘reviewing’ what happened and why:
We are aware of the concern with the Valedictorian not speaking at graduation. The board will be reviewing the circumstances regarding what happened and looking into the related guidelines and school policies.
The school did try to connect with the Mayor’s Office and the school’s call was not returned.
UPrep wishes Jaisaan Lovett, the first black valedictorian in the school’s four year graduation history, much success.