Donald V. Watkins
School Official to Black Students: Honor Beyoncé, Not Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Updated: Feb 28
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on February 8, 2023
BREAKING NEWS ---
Just when you thought it could not get any worse in Alabama, we learned tonight from Rebecca Griesbach's reporting at AL.com that student leaders at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama were told by an administrator that their upcoming Black History Month program should steer clear of civil rights era figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks. Students say they were also discouraged from focusing on major historical events like slavery and Reconstruction.
Ms. Jamiyah Brown, a Hillcrest senior who is part of the Black History Month program committee, said she was told earlier this fall by a white administrator that the students should include more “current” black figures, “like Beyoncé,” in the production, and that “old stuff” made people feel uncomfortable. The administrator reportedly stated that Black History Month event shouldn’t mention figures before 1970.
School officials have deny this claim.
Earlier today, about 200 to 300 Hillcrest students staged a walkout in protest of the school's attempt to control and dilute the content of the Black History Month program.
“We are disrespected, and the administration has created a climate of intimidation and bullying towards those that challenge authority,” said Ms. Brown. “When our parents seek to address these issues, the administration responds in a dismissive and hostile manner.”
Ms. Brown also stated that Black students at the school were being “targeted and punished unjustly without justifiable reasoning.”
The program is still scheduled for February 22, 2023, at 9 a.m.
The Tuscaloosa County school district operates 36 K-12 schools for 18,766 students, 42% of whom are black. Of the system’s seven board members, only one is black. Tuscaloosa County is 32.9% black, according to 2020 census data.
The school system’s superintendent is Dr. Keri Johnson, who is white.
According to the Hillcrest High School page on the school system’s website, Hillcrest’s principal is Jeff Hinton, who is white. The other administrators at the school are Brad Armstrong, Cheryl Morrow, Kevin Thomas, all of whom are white.
While Tuscaloosa County is represented by several black elected officials, including a black U.S. Congresswoman, not one of them has stepped-in to stop Hillcrest school officials from imposing their will on the student protestors regarding the kind of black people and civil rights events that school officials deem are worthy of inclusion in the Black History Month program.
Finally, it should be noted that Dr. King has been dead since April 4, 1968. He is the only non-U.S. president with a Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. A federal holiday is also named after Dr. King. No one has explained why the inclusion of Dr. King in a Black History Month program would make students and faculty members at Hillcrest uncomfortable. This remains a mystery tonight.