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Lowell High School's Newspaper of Record

The LHS Review

One year after the racial incident at LHS

Progress made but momentum depends on future generations

Anti+N-Word+posters+in+response+to+the+post+student+election+incident+of+2016.
Anti N-Word posters in response to the post student election incident of 2016.

Anti N-Word posters in response to the post student election incident of 2016.

Anti N-Word posters in response to the post student election incident of 2016.

Shaun Sichoumphonh, Opinion Writer

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By Shaun Sichoumphonh, Opinion Writer

Lowell has been known as the home to immigrants for many years. Diversity, including many people of color, has long been a source of pride for the community and the high school. Until a racial incident in October 2015 uncovered an issue at LHS that may have been buried beneath the surface for years.


It played out at LHS during the student election when the election became more than a popularity contest for some. In mere hours after the class of 2016 president, Anye Nkimbeng, was elected, some students began a conversation about their new president. It was racially charged and online.


Six students in particular had a group chat sarcastically titled, “We Love Black People.” The members of this group conversation expressed racist views against blacks. Some things that were mentioned were, “Rule out blacks,” “#Make LHS Great Again,” as well as other racially charged comments.


For a racial incident like this to happen at one of the most diverse high schools in America, LHS has over 50 languages spoken at the school, was a real travesty. This behavior is appalling and just not acceptable in today’s world as Americans strive for equality in a society recovering from the legacy of slavery, persecution and discrimination of African Americans.


In reaction, the administration suspended those involved, reviewed how the situation was handled and set up a task force to address the underlying race issue that came as a shock to the LHS community. LHS discovered the hard way how racist attitudes can exist in the most diverse environment and even at one of the first desegregated high schools in the country. Luckily for Lowell High a talented student leader also took up the mantle and confronted the incident.


Student class president of 2017 Onotse Omoyeni.

 

This person is none other than senior Onotse Omoyeni. Onotse, the 2017 senior class president,  who made it her mission to let Lowell High be aware of their privileges as individuals and their rights to a safe environment. She was appointed to something known as the Standing Committee on Cultural Competency, the task force to address issues of cultural awareness, intolerant attitudes and racial injustice.

 

Onotse worked with committee members to bring to light problems that the student body faces everyday related to tolerance.  Together they offered resources to address racial and cultural competency issues.


Onotse continued to impact her peers throughout her senior year. She even won the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for her valiant efforts. She and the committee have a variety of accomplishments that they’ve brought to our school.

They hosted a college play to the school titled, Defamation. In this play the audience is introduced to a court case and given the opportunity to decide a guilty or not guilty verdict during which the students evaluate sources of bias. Also, they have had many workshops involving the faculty in the school. One particular workshop was based upon bias and privilege to make students aware of their rights as citizens, their position in society and an awareness of personal bias. The Committee along with the Black Unity Club were responsible for a performance by the civil rights activist Rev. Robert B. Jones, Jr. at LHS. There, Rev. Jones jammed and jazzed with LHS students as part of Black History month.

Due to the racially charged incident last year, these events were what the school needed to break down barriers to race and encourage student tolerance.


The Standing Committee on Cultural Competency states, “We [want to] celebrate our diversity and the way it makes us better…individuals.”


In a world where a basketball star such as LeBron James is not immune to racial attacks, individuals need to band together in support of tolerance, not band against one another according to race. Lowell High School has rebounded from this incident but subsequent generations must pick up the mantle and continue the important work to encourage cultural understanding and racial tolerance.

(This story was updated to read “October 2015” in place of “in 2016” regarding the incident time period.)

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One year after the racial incident at LHS