On Friday, students at Brattleboro Union High School and Brattleboro Area Middle School raised Black Lives Matter flags on the flagpoles in front of the school.
A student group asked the school board in early April to support their move and allow them to raise the flag. The board voted unanimously on April 26 to approve the action.
BUHS senior James Shanti-Strother was one of the students who went before the board in support of the move. He says the group started talking about asking the board to allow them to raise the flag after high schools in Montpelier and Burlington took a similar step.
Shanti-Strother says it’s tough for students of color, in the mostly white school. And he says especially for any new students of color who might be walking into the school for the first time, the flag will act as an extra sense of support and unity.
“Putting a Black Lives Matter flag up definitely gives them more confidence, and more courage, and more of a sense of community, and hope that there are people there who will accept them and who will love them,” he says.
Before the flag went up, Z Muhammad read an original poem, which talked about what it was like to live as a young black woman at a time when stories about violence against members of the black community were commonplace.
“I’m a black kid, full of fear,” she read.
Shooting after shooting,
the bullet that hit them, hits me,
where it hurts the most; the heart.
And I am the one with the bleeding bullet wound.
The tears they shed, I’m shedding too.
I fear every day I go outside, I won’t come back in.
Black Lives Matter has become an international movement and a rallying cry for people who want to bring attention to the violence inflicted on the black community by the police and by other groups.
There’s some controversy around the group and a perception that the movement is anti-police.
Even here at BUHS, the flag caused some difficult discussions and debate. But eleventh grader student Trynity Strickland says that’s part of the point.
"And that’s the biggest thing, is just having people listen to others and be there for them” Stickland said. “There’s been a mixed reaction and a lot of hard talks, but they’re all important. So no matter how hard they are, it’s still necessary to have them.”
Students at Brattleboro schools raised #BlackLivesMatter flags on the flagpoles in front of their schools today.
— Vermont Public Radio (@vprnet) May 4, 2018
Some of the students who helped get the flag in front of BUHS will be graduating after this summer. While it's not clear how long the flag will stay up, they said they hope it will be there for a long time.
When Montpelier High School students raised the Black Lives Matter flag, it was reported to be the first high school in the country to do so.
Now, there are three Vermont schools that have elected to throw their support behind all that the group stands for.