A group of students at Wildwood Elementary school in Amherst, Massachusetts wrote a letter to President Obama as part of a class assignment in February. The letter reached local Massachusetts news outlets well into March and April, and the students began to rise in prominence because of their powerful words.
Students Phoenix, Zayd, Bryson, and Keidy wrote the letter for teacher Chris Eggmeir. The assignment was simple: Find a problem in the world and try to find viable solutions for that problem.
One of the students, Bryson, wanted to do the project on the Black Lives Matter movement. He inspired his group members to do the project on the movement because he was inspired by their message and he hoped they would be, too. As a team, the young men drafted a letter that they would go on to share with a school office aide. Paraprofessional Mtalia William Banda edited the letter for them and shared it on his personal website.
After Banda posted the letter, the school project went viral and thousands have read and shared the student’s thoughtful piece.
In the opening of the letter, the young men state simply that they want law enforcement to treat everyone equally.
The students go on to say that:
“Black Lives Matter movement started because of the death of Trayvon Martin. The movement gained momentum with the murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. There were reasons those people were killed but it wasn’t worth being killed over.
Police shouldn’t be killing unarmed African-Americans, but some people take this movement in the wrong way by thinking that they are just saying that only Black Lives Matter but no, we are saying that Black lives matter too, which means all lives matter. Whites are treated like they matter by the police. For instance, one in three Black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. African-Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police. This shows that Blacks are treated unfairly. This movement advocates for our rights.”
The student’s letter is poignant. In the last two years, the shooting of unarmed citizens have been at an all time high. The Guardian’s The Counted Project has documented 1,145 people killed by cops just last year. With only four months in, this year is closely rising to 300 people. The alarming cases of inmates dying in mysterious and suspicious ways in jails is another example of police brutality. The violence toward Black people by officers is just one aspect. Recent viral videos have shown school police and officials brutalizing Black students.
These students have made a bold statement. The president has made it a mission to advocate for young Black males. However, he has yet to respond to the young men.