After attending a rally and march demanding justice for Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers last month, Oakland Technical High School students Georgia Wallace and Satya Zamudio felt inspired to plan an action at their school for other students.
On Monday, they did just that, inviting students from their school and others across Oakland to a vigil and block party honoring the life of Nichols, whose gruesome beating was caught on video.
“Being the biggest public high school, I think it’s important that the student body feels united and understands how powerful we are,” said Zamudio, a senior at Oakland Tech. “Holding events like this is a really good way to have those moments of being united. Seeing all of us out here is already empowering in itself.”
Students painted a mural on Broadway in front of the school to memorialize Nichols, expressed their thoughts anonymously on a note board, and also dropped ideas and comments into a suggestion box for Oakland Tech Principal Martel Price on how to improve the school.
The action was supported by Youth vs. Apocalypse, a climate justice group, Anti-Police Terror Project, and CURYJ, an organization working against mass incarceration.
“I’m Black and I live in America. I’m doing this to advocate for myself, and for Black youth and their voices,” said Tonica Coulter, a junior at Castlemont High School. “I’m also tired of hearing stories of another Black person dying in the streets. It makes me sad and I’m tired of it.”
Teachers and students from Abundant Beginnings, a local community preschool, also stopped by. At times, students as young as toddlers led chants using a megaphone. The school, a nontraditional academy, brings students to protests and marches regularly to teach them about activism and social justice.
“Especially in this month, we’re talking a lot about Black power and Black futures and how kids can be freedom fighters,” said Dylan Cureton, a founder and teacher at the school. “They’re here to witness these big kids fighting for justice so they can know that they have the power to fight for justice as well.”
Walk-outs and protests aren’t new to Oakland Tech. In the past few years, students have held demonstrations protesting sexual harassment in schools and opposing school closures. Between 100 and 200 students attended Monday’s action.
“I don’t know if this is as much about Oakland Tech as it is about our generation,” said Wallace, a senior at Oakland Tech and one of the event organizers. “I hope that the more we do things like this, students feel empowered to hold space for their own emotions and pain.”