The rally was organized by NA for Change, a group of students and alumni from North Allegheny School district, which includes Franklin Park, Marshall, and McCandless. Organizers included student Jaime Martinez and graduate Lucia Bautista.
Speakers and signs mentioned the deaths of Black people killed by police, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Antwon Rose II, but the rally and protest were much more focused on a call to action against the North Allegheny School District. Organizers called on participants to join them in pressuring the North Allegheny School Board to institute a series of anti-racist policies.
NA for Change is in support of police reforms like reallocating funds away from police departments and banning less-lethal crowd control devices, but the rally today was focused on students and alumni of color sharing their experiences from time spent in North Allegheny School District.
Hailey Zeise graduated from North Allegheny High School in 2017. She is biracial and she said that when she was in high school, she would try to suppress her racial identity.
“Within the walls of NA, I felt like I couldn’t be myself,” said Zeise. “Students of color are underrepresented at NA.”
The racial make-up of all residents within the North Allegheny School District boundaries, not just students, is about 86% white, about 9% Asian, 2.5% Black, and 2% Latino, according to 2018 Census estimates. The district is very affluent and one of the better performing school districts in the region, which the organizers acknowledged, and said was a reason North Allegheny should be leading the way on anti-racist policies so that people of all backgrounds feel welcome there.
Hailey Zeise, the daughter of local sports talk host @PaulZeise, speaks about her experience being bi-racial and shared about how she suppressed her racial identity while at NA. “Within the walls of NA, I felt like I could not be myself.” pic.twitter.com/mFyLMLmaAY— Ryan Deto (@RyanDeto) June 17, 2020
Another alumnus of color, Nicole Matos Perez, said she also felt very alone in North Allegheny as a Hispanic student. She also said she received push back from school officials and others when calling on more inclusion and the ability to survey at North Allegheny.
Mckenzie Morrissey, a Black 2017 North Allegheny graduate, stressed the importance of equality in schools. She says the deaths of Floyd and Taylor have woken up the North Allegheny community.
“Times are changing. We are seeing new allies,” said Morrissey. “It gives me hope that we are ready to progress forward.”
Organizers of the rally called on attendees to join the call to pressure North Allegheny School Board officials to enacts a slew of anti-racist policies. One of the organizers, Vibha Reddy, said the group will be reading a letter at tonight's virtual school board meeting listing their demands, which include the school district implementing punishment for microaggressions and hate speech, and a way to document those things officials.
“It is critical the school district do this,” said Reddy.
The crowd was mostly made up of white young people, with some parents present and some people of color. Among them was state Rep. candidate Emily Skopov (D-Marshall), who is the Democratic nominee in this year’s election for state House District 28.
“Any opportunity to show up to help advocate for change is something I want to do, especially when young Black and Brown students are leading the charge,” said Skopov. “Part of running is to advocate for those that have a hard time being heard.”
The North Hills is a traditionally Republican stronghold in Allegheny County, although Democrats have made considerable victories over the years in local elections, and election experts now consider some districts in this area to be swing districts.
The rally ended with a long car procession where drivers taped Black Lives Matter and NA for Change posters to their vehicles. The procession was escorted by Allegheny County and state police.