Local community activists and religious leaders held a press conference in support of recent protests held by boys varsity soccer players at Rochester City School District’s World of Inquiry School No. 58.
The team had begun to kneel during the national anthem prior to games in September, similar to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who also began to sit and kneel during the national anthem prior to NFL games, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Both the school’s principal and the team’s coach had initially refused to comment on the matter, accept to say they were using the incident as a “teachable moment” for students.
United Christian Leadership Ministry president Rev. Lewis Stewart; Minister Kenneth Muhammad, a student representative for the Nation of Islam; and community activist Howard Eagle participated in the press conference.
In addition, the group released the following joint statement regarding the matter:
“We called for this gathering in order to publicly express our collective pride, appreciation, and support for the young men on the school #58 soccer team — who took a bold, courageous, and righteous stand on behalf of themselves, their families, and the broader Black Community, as well as oppressed communities in general. Their actions are clearly motivated by love for oppressed people, and has absolutely nothing to do with disrespect, or dishonor of veterans, or anyone else for that matter.
We believe that they are displaying several habits of mind, and shills that we hope our school system will help instill in all of our students. Those include demonstrating deep, critical, and analytical thought, understanding, and concern regarding long-standing serious, historic, sociopolitical issues — and then going further by stepping up, as young people, and demonstrating responsible behavior, and outstanding leadership, on behalf of thousands of youth who have been abused, and in many cases, are still being abused, and sometimes worse.. They took a stand regarding justice, and equality for all, and for that, we admire, and honor them.
Again, we want these fine young men, and their families, the Rochester City School District, and the broader community to know that we stand ready, willing, and able to support the soccer players at #58 school, as well as other schools, in any ways necessary, and possible.
We are somewhat concerned by what seems to be a calculated effort on the part of the Rochester City School District to restrict, and redirect students First Amendment Rights regarding the importance of open, and honest dialogue concerning this critical matter. Thus, we also stand ready, willing and able to offer support to anyone in the Rochester City School District, or beyond (children, and/or adults) who feel that their First Amendment rights are being violated by anyone regarding this, and/or any other similar, or related situation.”
RCSD spokesperson Chip Partner also released the following statement in response to the group’s concerns:
“In no way did the school district attempt to restrict the rights of students. To the contrary, the school and the District affirmed the students’ First Amendment rights, and used this as a teachable moment for students to engage in dialog with each other and adults about the reasons for the protest.”