You survived four years of being marginalized by a school that was “nice-nasty” with your type. You overcame the pseudo-racism and dodged the traps of a pity party. You ignored the distractions placed in your way to guarantee your failure and did the unthinkable. You graduated high school. But you not only graduated high school, you graduated at the top of your class. You not only graduated at the top of your class but you also accomplished the feat of being the FIRST black valedictorian the charter school ever had. You are deserving of all the accolades for doing what so many said you couldn’t do. All the perks that come with being valedictorian should be at your fingertips. Not if your name is Jaissaan Lovett.
Lovett graduated from University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men last month and stunned everyone by being the first black valedictorian in the history of the school. As valedictorian, Lovett prepared his speech to deliver at the commencement ceremony. In the past, previous honorees were asked to give a speech and keeping with the tradition, Lovett prepared his. He was looking forward to encouraging his fellow classmates and thanking his parents, siblings and teachers. What he found disconcerting however, was that the administration never approached him about giving a graduation speech. Since no one took the time to reach out to him Lovett sought out the principal for guidance. He asked the principal if he could give his speech at the ceremony and the principal shot his latest achievement down.
“He didn’t want to see the speech or what it said, nothing,” the graduate told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “He just said no.”
One person saw this unfair behavior by the charter school administration and decided to do something. That person was the mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren. The mayor invited Lovett to give his speech at City Hall. She also posted the video of the speech to her YouTube channel as well as her Facebook page.
“Unfortunately, Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech,” Warren said in the video. “For some reason, his school – in a country where freedom of speech is a constitution right, and the city of Frederick Douglass – turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.
“Jaisaan will never graduate from high school again. He will never get that moment back. This is not the time to punish a child because you may not like what he has to say.”
In the video, Lovett fired verbal shots at his alma mater and the principal saying:
“I’m here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. I’m still here, and I’m still here strong. And after all these years, all this anger I’ve had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself.”
The school’s board of trustees responded to requests for comment by saying:
We are aware of the concern with the Valedictorian not speaking at graduation. The Board will be reviewing the circumstances regarding what happened and looking into the related guidelines and school policies. For confidentiality reasons, the school isn’t able to speak about the specifics of this situation. However, the school did try to connect with the Mayor’s Office and the school’s call was not returned. UPrep wishes Jaisaan Lovett, the first black Valedictorian in the school’s four year graduation history, much success as he continues his education at Clark Atlanta University.