A school’s first Black valedictorian was reportedly stopped from speaking at his graduation ceremony in New York state. In the end, he was only able to deliver his speech thanks to the help of the mayor.
Jaisaan Lovett was ready to end his high school career at the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men in Rochester last month on a high note, before starting Clark Atlanta University on a full scholarship. He prepared powerful words to deliver to his fellow graduates, but was met with opposition from his school’s principal, Joseph Munno, he said.
The school canceled the teen’s speech, which Lovett believed was the result of animosity expressed by Munno toward him after a series of events at UPrep. However, the graduate had a friend in a high place: Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. Lovett, who interned in Warren’s office, got the greenlight to deliver his speech at City Hall, USA Today reported.
“Unfortunately, Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech,” Warren said in the video of Lovett’s speech posted on YouTube. “For some reason, his school — in a country where freedom of speech is a constitution right, and the city of Frederick Douglass — turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.”
She continued: “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.”
Lovett had several occurrences with Munno over his six years at the charter school, including one time when he led a student strike over the school refusing to order safety equipment for a lab.
His speech contained a poignant message for the principal, with Lovett saying, “To Mr. Munno, my principal, there’s a whole lot of things I’ve wanted to say to you for a long time. … 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 here strong. And after all these years, all this anger I’ve had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself. And I forgive you for everything I held against you.”
Watch the speech below:
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