Nationality Day leads to Black Lives Matter protest


Paige Alban

During Spirit Week, junior Madison Daily wears a Black Lives Matter shirt for Nationality Day on Oct. 4. Daily and other African American students dressed down in all black to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement instead of dressing in accordance with the official Nationality dress code guidelines.

Correction: The earlier version of this story misspelled Madison Dailey’s name.

Junior Chika Chuku rushes into her math class on Oct. 4 as the rest of her classmates stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Heads turn and stare, not because she’s late, but because of her outfit. The rest of class is decked out in red, white, and blue as part of participation in Spirit Week’s Nationality Day, but Chuku isn’t wearing the colors of the flag. She’s wearing all black.

For students like Chuku, Nationality Day presented an opportunity not to show their national pride, but to stand up for a cause they believe in. Chuku and other about 30 to 40 other African American students wore all black on Nationality Day to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the issue of police brutality, has recently touched many realms of American society, from the football field with Colin Kaepernick to the debate stage for the presidential election, and it has now started to touch the communities of high schools across the United States.

Teachers and students alike from schools all across the country have stood up for their support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Throughout the week of Oct. 17, almost 1,000 Seattle Public School teachers wore Black Lives Matter t-shirts in support of the organization, according to Fox News.

Students from Watkins’ Mill High School, located in Montgomery County, Md., recently took a knee during the national anthem at their high school football game, following the example set by Colin Kaepernick. They’re not the only ones, and students from schools in places like Virginia, Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota have held similar protests, according to the Washington Post.

Now, the JC community is another high school impacted by a Black Lives Matter demonstration. When students dressed down in all black instead of red, white, and blue on Nationality Day, they had a purpose: to make people think about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, according to Chuku.

“Our motivation was to make people think about all the lives taken by police brutality. [We dressed in all black] so people can see how serious of an issue this, so they can talk about and try to understand,” Chuku said. According to junior Madison Dailey, who took part in the demonstration, the group wore black to start a conversation with their fellow students about the issue of police brutality.

“Our motivation was to make people think about all the lives taken by police brutality, not to cause division,” Chuku said. Some students, like Chuku and junior Jayla Ferguson, feel that there’s a need for students to be more informed on the issue.

“[I think the JC community] is not informed at all on the issue of police brutality. And I feel like if you don’t see the problem and don’t see why we’re doing it, it’s possible that you are a part of the problem,” Ferguson said.

Our motivation was to make people think about all the lives taken by police brutality, not to cause division”

— Chika Chuku

Some of the group also feels that the community doesn’t really understand the ideas behind the Black Lives Matter organization as well. “I think a lot of people don’t understand what Black Lives Matter is at all. It’s not an anti-white people group,” Dailey said.

“It’s not like we’re saying ‘all lives don’t matter.’ We’re saying that [black lives] are the lives being targeted. We’re not saying other lives don’t matter,” Ferguson said.

The students say that this is a possible first step to make the community more aware of the issue of police brutality and more understanding of the Black Lives Matter movement. “By starting a conversation, people can become more aware. I think something like an assembly would be good,” Dailey said.

Some of the students who dressed in black feel they made an impact on other students. “I think there were some students who got it, and afterwards, they had a little idea [of what’s going on],” Ferguson said.

While the group felt they did make some progress, they did receive some negative responses as well. “It wasn’t the right thing for them to do. They built up walls and separated themselves. It was contrary to what Nationality Day was. It was a day we were all supposed to come together,” junior Hayes Stancliff said.

“The spirit days are designed with particular themes in mind to support and advance school unity, not to make a political statement. In the future, I would prefer people observe the spirit days in the way they were intended and leave the politics for another day,” Student Government Association moderator Rodney Johnson said.

The students acknowledge the negative responses, but are confident with the decision they made to wear all black. “Some people said, ‘you shouldn’t have done it on USA day,’ but I think it’s the perfect time to do it. On a normal school day we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do this,” Dailey said. 

Grace Mottley is the Assignment Chief for The Patriot and