Latin Students and Alumni Hold Rally to Demand Accountability


Tia Sciarrotta

Recent alum, Keiara Stallworth, delivers final remarks while surround by fellow organizers.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the Lincoln steps, many clad in all-black wearing pins that read, “We Demand: More BIPOC Teachers” and “Black Lives Matter,” last Saturday. The protest, which was attended by nearly 100 Latin students, alumni, faculty, and students from peer institutions, was organized in response to what they feel has been an inadequate effort from the administration to address newly uncovered incidents of discrimination and sexual misconduct at the school. Although the rally included student performances and speeches, it was readings of the 33-point list of demands the group prepared for Latin’s administration that directed the event.


Picture Credit: Robert Igbokwe | Pins worn at the event displaying some of the group’s demands for the school

Preparation for the rally started back in late June when the idea was first conceived by rising seniors Freddi Mitchell and Maeve Healy. They soon created a group chat with over 50 members to brainstorm ideas for the event. “The entire point was to get as many people to organize this so that we were a diverse group of people putting this together,” says Kazi Stanton-Thomas, a rising junior who came to be one of the protest’s primary organizers, “Of course, we had to worry about safety because of the pandemic currently happening and then getting supplies, getting support—there were just a lot of factors we had to consider.” To ensure safety, organizers created a list of rules which included a ban on all weapons and mandating the use of masks.
For the day of the event, the group set up medical supplies, a food station, and chalk to draw messages like “#BLM” on the Lincoln steps. Performances included rising junior Elliot Kovitz’s rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Maeve Healy’s reading of “A Story Like Mine” by Halsey, and recent alumni Miles Aronivitz and Rahsaan Nance’s performance of John Coltrane’s “Naima.” Several demonstrators, such as recent alum Maya Passman, rising senior Madison Seda, and rising juniors Ben Martinez and McKenna McMurray, delivered speeches on their experiences at Latin and their hopes for the future.

Picture Credit: Tia Sciarrotta | Rising junior, McKenna McMurray, delivering a speech on the meaning of activism and anti-racism

“We are sick and tired of Latin putting on a show to the outside world about an inclusive environment,” asserted Maya Passman, another primary organizer, during her speech. “Enough of the excuses already. Sweeping racism under the rug is a form of cheating. It’s cheating the school and the student body out of equity. We don’t tolerate cheating in academics, so why are we tolerating cheating in our commitment to dismantle a racist system?”
Between these performances and speeches, members of the group read the 33 demands they prepared for the school. In the demands, they urged the school to increase the influence of student organizations like the Student Diversity and Equity Committee and Latin’s Initiative for Ethics in the community, create clearer policies to hold perpetrators of discrimination and sexual misconduct accountable, provide self-defense and consent training to all students, among other changes.
Although the organizers spent three weeks promoting the protest on social media, they were admittedly surprised by the turnout. “I really thought a lot of people wouldn’t show up,” says Freddi. “Seeing a lot of people who I thought really didn’t care about these topics was great. People actually listened and wanted to learn.”
Alums from as far back as the Class of 1983 also joined the student demonstrators. “Latin has given me so much, and I love this place, but Tejas put it best when he said I want to see it get better and that’s the definition of love,” says Lulu Ruggiero, who graduated last June. “I’m so grateful for what it’s given me but I know how much more Latin could do for its students. I want it to be better, and that doesn’t end after I’m a student.” Emily Breitenecker, a fellow member of the Class of 2020, echoed Lulu’s thoughts, commenting on how her decision to attend the protest was influenced by the fact that her younger sister is still a Latin student. “I experienced those microaggressions, and I’ve had people question my race because I’m half white, and I don’t want that atmosphere for my sister. I want her to live in a safe space where she can embrace both her white identity and her Asian identity. So I’m here for her.”
Alumni weren’t the only supporters of the rally. “We got a ton of support from alumni, a few of the board members who contacted Maya, our parents,” explains Maeve. “My mom’s here, she’s helping us out with legal counsel, and Maya’s parents are also here for medical.” In the weeks leading up to the event, the group worked closely with members of the administration to ensure that the protest would run smoothly and their demands would be heard. Although administrators and faculty did not speak on stage as per the rules of the protest, many such as Upper School Receptionist, Sami Aday, Middle School Performing Arts Teacher, Laura Steenveld-Hamilton, Latin’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Ms. Maajid, and the Upper School Diversity Coordinator, Ms. L-C, were reportedly in attendance.
The event culminated in the group of student organizers huddling around recent alum Keiara Stallworth, as she tearfully delivered closing remarks. “This is not okay. The fact that we had to put this together is not okay. This should have changed a long time ago. I never would have thought that I would end my time at Latin like this. I never would have thought that we would all be having to wear masks right now. I never thought I cared this much, but here we are. I’m grateful for this opportunity to speak my voice, for my opinion to be heard. I appreciate each and every one of you for coming out. And I hope today made a difference.”

*The organizers’ list of demands can be found using this link.
** Live streamings of the event along with in-person interviews can be found on The Forum’s Instagram TV @latinschoolforum