Hundreds of marchers took part in a Juneteenth Black Lives Matter march from College Place Middle School to the Edmonds School District headquarters Friday in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Hundreds of marchers took part in a Juneteenth Black Lives Matter march from College Place Middle School to the Edmonds School District headquarters Friday in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Students lead Juneteenth march, seek change at their schools

Black student union groups in the Edmonds district organized the event, and the county issued a resolution.

LYNNWOOD — Hundreds of people carried signs and chanted “Black history is American history” as they joined in a Juneteenth march Friday from College Place Middle School to the Edmonds School District headquarters. Many also signed a list of measures they’re requesting of the district.

And as people across Snohomish County gathered to commemorate Juneteenth, a joint resolution passed by the county council and executive honored the date that America’s nearly 250 years of slavery came to an end.

The march was organized by Black student union groups from Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds-Woodway, Meadowdale and Lynnwood high schools.

Among the steps sought by those signing a message to the Edmonds district: Black representation on the school board and among all schools’ staff, removal of school resource officers, mandatory anti-racist training for staff, Black history across all curricula, and accountability for racism that happens in the district.

“The BSUs wanted to do something for Juneteenth — it’s completely student-led,” said Tribecca Brazil, a Black Student Union adviser and paraeducator at Mountlake Terrace High School.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day enslaved Black people in Texas received word of their freedom. More than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation — which said that all people held as slaves shall be “forever free” — news reached the far reaches of the U.S. frontier. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, backed by 2,000 Union troops, landed on Galveston Island that day 155 years ago and read the order proclaiming “all slaves are free.”

“Juneteenth is a day for us to reflect on the suffering caused by slavery, acknowledge the evils of hatred and discrimination, and commit to being allies of our Black and African American friends, family, and neighbors,” the county resolution says.

At the Lynnwood march, students were joined by a diverse crowd, including parents pushing baby strollers, young children, senior citizens and educators. “My Black Students Are Important to Me,” said one sign carried by a white woman.

Ashley Kay Smith, a 2012 graduate of Everett High School, now works for the Edmonds district as a college and career readiness specialist. She’s the Black Student Union adviser at Meadowdale Middle School and works with Meadowdale’s freshman girls basketball team.

Now 25, she recalls being suspended multiple times from Everett’s North Middle School and being kicked out of an honors English class in high school. “The message was, ‘You don’t belong here,’” said Smith, who is African American. “The amazing thing about these students, they don’t give up. They know they belong here. They know they matter.”

Wearing a cardboard sign that said “Brown and Proud,” Marisol Stewart, 22, remembers being called a “stupid Mexican” at Meadowdale Middle School. “Teachers need to learn to be anti-racist,” said Stewart, now a bilingual paraeducator in the Highline School District.

Juneteenth events were to continue Friday with a candlelight vigil at Meadowdale High School, organized by the school’s Black Student Union and EAACH, the Equity Alliance for Achievement.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Herald writer Rachel Riley contributed.

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