The principal of the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men silenced the school’s first-ever black valedictorian during graduation. Instead of allowing Jaisaan Lovett to deliver the traditional graduation speech, Lovett was instead forced to stay on the sidelines, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
Fortunately for Lovett, he wouldn’t be ignored for long. Perhaps the principal would have acted differently had he known, but Lovett was an intern at Rochester’s Mayor Lovely Warren’s office. When Warren learned of what happened at Lovett’s high school graduation, she encouraged him to deliver his speech at the Rochester City Hall. The speech was then posted to the city’s YouTube channel for all to see.
In the speech, Lovett thanked everyone who helped him accomplish his goals, including family and teachers. Lovett encouraged his fellow students also. He also added a note to principal Joseph Munno.
“To Mr. Munno, my principal, there’s a whole lot of things I’ve wanted to say to you for a long time. … I’m here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. I’m still here, and I’m still here strong…. And after all these years, all this anger I’ve had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself. And I forgive you for everything I held against you.”
Mayor Warren also prefaced Lovett’s speech by underscoring the importance of treating students with respect.
Warren described how Lovett’s moment to shine was robbed from him.
“Unfortunately, Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech… For some reason, his school — in a country where freedom of speech is a constitution right, and the city of Frederick Douglass — turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.”
Lovett detailed that nobody ever approached him to deliver a valedictorian speech, even though it was customary for valedictorians to do so. He believes that it was due to a personal grudge that the principal had against him, considering that the two had disagreements in the past. When Lovett explicitly asked to deliver a speech, the principal simply told him, “No.”
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The principal never gave a detailed reason for why he was denying Lovett the opportunity to deliver a speech. Warren even said that she contacted the principal but that “to [her] knowledge,” he never returned her call.
On the other hand, the school said that it did reach back out to the mayor’s office, but that they were the ones that did not hear back from her, according to Democrat & Chronicle.
Lovett is heading to Clark Atlanta University on a full scholarship to study video game design.