Meet the new winners of the Black Education Matters Student Activist Award!
All around the nation young people are joining an uprising for Black Lives. These youth are not only rejecting police violence, but increasingly rejecting a system that allow the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many other Black people. These young people have also made clear they also want to build a school system that teaches the truth about Black history and uplifts Black people.
These rebellious youth are exactly why I founded the Seattle based Black Education Matters Student Activist Award (BEMSAA). This award offers a $1000 package to deserving Seattle public school students who demonstrates exceptional leadership in struggles for social justice against institutional racism
The BEMSAA board recently honored four of the most dynamic students activists in the struggle for Black lives who have been doing this work for years. I am so inspired by this year’s winners of the Black Education Matters Student Activist Award. They have all contributed greatly to undoing institutional racism in the schools and the boarder society and have demonstrated brave leadership in struggles for social justice.
2020 BEMSAA Awardees
- Angelina Riley is a Rainier Beach High School student and incoming president of the Seattle King County NAACP Youth Council. Angelina helped write a petition asking the district to no longer allow police in the schools that garnered some 18,000 signatures in a few days and led to the Seattle Public Schools announcement that police would be removed from the schools for a year.
- Azure Savage is a queer, trans, Black student graduate of Garfield High School. He is the author of You Failed Us: Students of Color Talk Seattle Schools, an exploration of the experience that students of color have in the schools they attend around the Seattle area. It incorporates direct quotes from interviewed students, as well as the author’s own personal experiences from when they were in elementary school, to now, about to enter their senior year of high school. Azure’s book helped ignite a discussion about combating institutional racism in the Seattle schools. Azure has also organized BLM rallies at Garfield and participated in BLM rallies throughout the city.
- Bethel Getu is a Graduate of Garfield High School graduate and senator for the Black Student Union. Bethel served as a student consultant for the forthcoming Young Adult edition of, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” and was an organizer for the “Youth Shall Lead: Seattle Children’s March” where she helped craft demands around ending police violence.
- Kidist Habte, is a co-founder of “Black and Brown Minds Matter,” and is a junior at Rainier Beach High School. As Parent Map wrote, “She helped conceive of and organize the group’s inaugural Sept. 4 rally to raise awareness of funding inequities across the district, many of which are caused by the under-projection of school enrollment numbers that results year after year in budget cuts and under-resourcing of Seattle Public Schools serving students in South Seattle.” She also helped organize the petition to remove police from schools that received over 18,000 signatures in a few days and led to the Seattle Public Schools announcement that police would be removed from the schools for a year.
Past award winners have been among the most impactful student leaders in Seattle, including leading mass walkouts against president Trump’s inauguration, leading the successful movement for ORCA transportation cards for Seattle students, leading whole teams to take a knee during the national anthem, launching the NAACP Youth Coalition, leading movements for food justice, and more.
The award was started with funds Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian received in a settlement after suing the Seattle Police Department and the City of Seattle when he was wrongfully assaulted with pepper-spray by a Seattle Police officer.
On MLK Day 2015, Jesse Hagopian was pepper sprayed in the face by a Seattle police officer without provocation. The incident occurred not long after Hagopian gave the final speech at the MLK Day community rally. Hagopian is committed to turning that pain into the empowerment of youth for social change.