School's First Black Valedictorian Banned From Speaking At Graduation By White Principal

Rear view of students sitting at graduation ceremony

School's First Black Valedictorian Banned From Speaking At Graduation By White Principal

Jaisaan Lovett wanted to deliver a speech to his classmates, but ended up doing it at City Hall instead.

Published July 4, 2018

A Black student who was banned from speaking at his graduation ceremony isn’t backing down quietly.

  1. Jaisaan Lovett, who was the first Black valedictorian in the history of University Prep Charter School in Rochester, New York, decided that if he couldn’t speak at his graduation, he’d take his message to city hall.

    The young man already is an intern at the governmental office and decided to take the opportunity to speak about his class and take the high road over his principal, Joseph Munno. The town’s mayor, Lovely Warren, allowed Lovett to dress in his cap and gown and deliver his speech on camera.

  2. “To Mr. Munno, my principal, it's a whole lot of things that I've wanted to say to you for a long time. As a matter of fact, I wasn't going to give this speech at all,” he said in regards to his principal who is white and had been at odds with Lovett during his years at the school. “But then I realized something. I realized that this speech is more than just about me.”

    “It means a lot to the people I mean a lot to. I am here as the UPrep 2018 Valedictorian to tell you that you couldn't break me and that I'm still here,” he continued. “I am still here strong.”

    Jaisaan Lovett was not given a reason by his principal as to why he couldn’t speak at the actual graduation ceremony.

    Watch and read along to his full city hall speech below.

  3. First, I would like to acknowledge that I am the first African American valedictorian in UPrep history.

    I say this not to brag but to emphasise the importance of this. Hopefully there will be many more after me and I want it to be known that this isn't impossible and it can be done.

    It's been a long six years. And I say six because I've been here at UPrep since 7th grade so I know. I wont take up too much of your time because I know I hate when people talk forever so I'm going to just get my shout-outs out the way now if y'all don't mind.

    First, I would like to thank my mom and dad. Anybody that really knows me knows my mom and she don't play. She made sure I went to school and I had what I needed. She made sure that I had good grades and she always told every teacher, if it's a problem then call me. Whenever I got in trouble at school, I got in trouble at home and I guess looking back I can appreciate that because it taught me actions had consequences.

    If she wasn't like that then I probably wouldn't be giving this speech right now.

    I want to thank my dad for always being there to talk to me and get my mind right. He showed me things I didn't know and when I had questions about anything he would explain it so I could understand it. I ask a lot of questions, people tell me I get it from him. I love both of them and I couldn't be here without them.

    I want to acknowledge my brother, y'all know he's always with me and we go through everything together. I can ask him anything and the answer would be yes. I want you to know that I appreciate everything and we've got a long journey to go.

    I want to thank my brother L'Jason, he was the UPrep salutatory last year and he just finished his freshman year at Morehouse college.

    Being that he was a year ahead of me, he experienced everything before I did and I got a chance to learn from him. My older sister gets a shout out too.

    I want to mention all my day one brothers. There's too many more to name. I want to thank Miss Denker, who was like my second mom at school, and all of the administrators who told me what I needed to hear and not what I wanted to hear when I got in trouble. 

    But in all serousnes we're here now. It's time to really take that step. To all my brothers graduating, it's been a long time coming and it's going to get real out here. I wish y'all the best and I hope success meets very single one of you.

    I'll be a couple states away but I'll be back in town on breaks and if you need something then call me. I am here.

    We've been through a lot at UPrep and I mean a lot. To Mr. Munno, my principal, it's a whole lot of things that I've wanted to say to you for a long time. As a matter of fact, I wasn't going to give this speech at all.

    But then I realized something. I realized that this speech is more than just about me. It means a lot to the people I mean a lot to.

    I am here as the Uprep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn't break me and that I'm still here.

    I am still here strong. After all these years, after all this anger that I have towards you and UPrep as a whole, I realize that I have to let that go in order to better myself. I forgive you for everything that I held against you. 

Written by Paul Meara

Photo: altrendo images

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