MONTCLAIR, NJ - Nationally renowned activist Danette Chavis, of National Action Against Police Brutality, will be speaking at the Black Kids Matter Rally on Saturday, August 15, 2020.
The rally will begin at Montclair High School's Rand Park at 1PM, followed by a short program. The group is set to begin marching at 2:30PM to the steps of Buzz Aldrin Middle School, where we the program will continue until 5PM.
Chavis started her organization after the death of her son, 19-year-old son in October 2004. According to published reports, Chavis' son Gregory Chavis wasn't shot by law enforcement, however, the family has maintained that New York police prevented him from receiving medical treatment for his gunshot wound despite being a block away from Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. Chavis has since comforted other mothers who have lost their sons and has been active at demonstrations across the nation.
Also scheduled to speak, is teen fashion designer Egypt Ufele, who started a clothing line at the age of 10. Ufele, with the help of her mom Dr. Rebe Perry-Ufele, turned her pain into passion by launching the Chubiiline Fashion brand and Bullychasers non-profit organization. Five years ago, to help her deal with being bullied, she used her sewing machine as a way to cope. Ufele, who also serves as a Youth ambassador to the United Nations, has been featured in national news outlets including Access Hollywood and even a Ford Explorer commercial.
The Black Kids Matter rally was birthed out of incidents surrounding attacks on a 13-year-old Montclair teen, whose family has filed a Tort Claim against Montclair School District. The claim alleges that bullying, harassment, intimidation, abuse, discrimination and retaliation occurred over a two-year period to the black teen.
Lorenzo Rulli, a man who has been coined the, “The People’s Protester,” will be joining the movement on Saturday. Rulli, of Pittsburgh, is a prominent figure in the Black Lives Matter movement and is known for being active in protests across the nation. When he heard of what was happening in the Montclair schools, he was quick to lend his support to the movement for justice in the schools. Rulli is an independent activist who has lent his voice to the quest for social justice.
Montclair's own Lawrence Hamm of People's Organization for Progress, has been known to advocate for injustices across the nation. He frequently hosts rallies across New Jersey and has devoted his life's work to advocating for justice, equality and accountability.
Activist Shayla George will also address the crowd. The recent 2020 graduate of Montclair High School has started to raise her voice to various injustices that black Montclair students have been facing in the schools over the years. She recently hosted a rally in Montclair that drew more than 4000 participants and another that gathered students across Essex County for Juneteenth. She then gave the Board a list of demands and has followed up with the Superintendent to ensure the demands are met.
Kellia Sweatt of the National Independent Black Parent's Association, will also be speaking during the rally. Sweatt, a longtime community organizer, made headlines after calling for the Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker's Resignation, forced an abrupt end to the meeting. The Board then responded at having a police officer approach the podium when Sweatt went over her speaking time. Sweatt is also instrumental in implementing the Student Equity Advocate position for the Montclair School District and the Assistant Superintendent for Equity position.
Also scheduled to speak on Saturday are: Caryl R. Lucas of Unstoppable Girls, Pro Basketball Player Alexandria Kerr of For the People Foundation, Former Assemblyman Craig A. Stanley who co-sponsored the Amistad Bill, Abraham Dickerson, who co-organized a peaceful protest with the Montclair Police, Algernon Hall of Jubilee Children's Entertainment, Al-Tariq Best of the HUBB Arts & Trauma Center, and many other notable surprise guests.
Natalie Hackett, the teen's mother, will also be in attendance and has said that her daughter was a happy kid in honors classes, juggling sports, playing four instruments, singing in a band and performing, prior to moving to Montclair two years ago, which is one town away from West Orange, where she grew up. The family alleges that their daughter, was targeted by students for her identifying characteristics, skin tone, race, and hair texture, among other things.
Rather than addressing the incidents with the students, the victim was only provided with inadequate, insufficient and sporadic adult supervision to escort her to classes. The family alleges that incidents continued, even in the presence of the adult protection, and more frequently when there was no adult supervision or oversight, at all.
Hackett has said, “In an age where bullying is frowned upon and kids are taught at home and in school not to bully, you would think that the Montclair School District would have done everything in their power to keep my daughter safe,” said Hackett. “Instead, they became bullies themselves.”
Even after the school district hired a private investigator that found the teen was being bullied, school officials turned a blind eye, the family alleges.
More than 30 students called her “Blackie,” Tar Baby,” “Burnt Stick,” “Shadow,” and other slurs referencing her race and skin color. Students also told the victim, “You look like you jumped in a bucket of black paint.” There were also acts of public humiliation and a physical attack, according to published reports.
Attorney, Jeffrey R. Youngman, of Feitlin, Youngman, Karas & Gerson, LLC., is representing the family, and has said, “The school allowed a culture of harassment, intimidation, bullying and abuse to exist within its midst and failed to protect the student in any way. As is always the case with HIB, when left unaddressed, or addressed inadequately, the child ends up being victimized, ostracized and isolated.”
In response to frequent -almost daily- debilitating anxiety attacks the victim began having in school, Hackett requested a 504 plan for her daughter. The district denied the request and then demoted the victim out of the honors math class in the middle of the semester, according to the Claim.
Hackett said, “The situation caused my daughter to withdraw and stop wanting to participate in activities she once loved. Playing basketball and performing with her band was no longer fun when she had to worry about being taunted. She no longer wanted to act or perform, which was her a passion for 7 years.”
She had to see therapists, visit doctors, wear a heart monitor, get an attorney to advocate for her and more, which racked up serious debt, Hackett added. Now, Hackett's daughter is slated to return to the District in September because the District has refused to allow her to go to another school, the family asserts.
In response to publication of the aforementioned acts, the community has rallied around this young girl. Since coming forward, other students have started to come forward with additional stories of abuse or discrimination at the school and in the district.
Therefore, a coalition of other community organizers are teaming up to send the message to the district that, "Black Kids Matter."
Organizers said that the day is not about just Hackett's daughter, but for all of the students that have been mistreated and unheard in the schools. They are calling for accountability, justice and an end to mistreatment of protected class students in the schools.
House Music Singer/Songwriter Eddie Nicholas will MC the start of the event, followed by a special invited Montclair HS student. Singers to include Jazz singer Denise Hamilton, Adarian Sneed, and acoustic guitarist/singer Rostafa.
Reminders: The rally will begin at Montclair High School's Rand Park at 1PM and begin marching at 2:30PM to Buzz Aldrin Middle School, where we will continue the program until 5PM. Social distancing will be strongly encouraged. Attendees are encouraged to bring masks, water and signs.
Editor's Note: The owner/publisher of TAPinto Montclair is involved in the Tort Claim discussed in this article. The commentary regarding the Tort Claim was compiled from a PR firm's press release.