ICYMI: Black Valedictorian Denied Graduation Spotlight Gives Speech Anyway

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 06, 2018

Jaisaan Lovett graduated from the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men in Rochester, New York, last month as the first Black valedictorian in the school’s eight-year history. But the school decided—without telling him why—that he would not deliver a speech during the June 22 graduation ceremony.

So Lovett found another way.

He reached out to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren (D). He’d interned in his office for two years, and thought the Black woman would understand his plight. Warren knows all about firsts, as the first woman and youngest mayor of her city in recent memory. Warren came through with a much larger platform for delivering his address.

“Unfortunately, Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech,” the mayor says in the video above, which was posted to the mayor’s official social media accounts on Monday (July 2). “For some reason, his school—in a country where freedom of speech is a constitutional right, and the city of Frederick Douglass—turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.”

As The Washington Post details, Lovett spoke directly to principal Joseph Munno during his speech, saying, “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. And I’m still here, and I’m still here strong.”

Watch the full speech above.