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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Black Education Matters Honors Two Student Activists

This article is one of a series of articles produced by Word in Black through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Word In Black is  a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

On the first federally observed Juneteenth holiday, Black Education Matters Student Activist Award (BEMSAA) honored Alexis Mburu and Kaley Duong duirng a ceremony for their outstanding activism against racism in the schools.

The Black Education Matters Student Activist Award, funded with a settlement that Seattle Teacher Jesse Hagopian received after suing the Seattle Police Department after he was wrongfully assaulted with pepper-spray by a Seattle Police officer, celebrates and recognizes student leaders in Seattle Public Schools who demonstrate exceptional leadership in the struggles against institutional racism and for social justice, and comes with a $1,000 award.

Mburu, a junior in high school and the first vice president for the Washington State NAACP Youth Council, is a writer, activist, volunteer with the Seattle MLK Jr. and has been one of the leading organizers of Seattle’s Black Lives Matter at School week of action.

Duong’s commitment to empowering youth, especially BIPOC youth, was displayed when she joined two others — Mia Dabney and Rena Walker Mateja Burr — to take the lead in the writing and passing of Policy 1250, which puts youth on the Seattle School Board. Duong also demonstrated a passionate commitment to the struggle for Black education, when she helped to organize a curriculum fair workshop for the Black Lives Matter at School week of action to support educators in understanding the dos and don’ts of teaching about racism. In addition, Duong helped launch the Black Lives Matter at School Year of Purpose in 2020 with an event that attracted over 200 attendees where she connected BLM at School with the NAACP Youth Council’s demands for education.

“Here in Seattle, we are honoring two of the most dynamic student activists who have contributed greatly to the struggle against institutional racism in the schools,” said Hagopian, director of BEMSAA.

Throughout history social change has always been initiated by youth awareness and Rita Green, Education Chair for the Washington State NAACP and a BEMSAA board member, believes it is paramount that the voices of our young people are heard.

“This award is important because now more than ever we need to hear from our youth,” said Green. “They are the future leaders and can verbalize what they are experiencing and what is needed to improve educational outcomes.”

The BEMSAA board is made up of local educators and activists from Seattle. The award has been generously supported by former Seattle Seahawk Michael Bennett and Grammy award winning artist Macklemore.

“These winners are great choices as both have grown over the years,” says Green. “One has made policy changes in her school district. The other has found her voice and participates on a team working to implement a policy change that will include student voice on the school board.”

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