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Walking the walk: Black and POC community members welcome Leschi Elementary students to school during Seattle High 5

Photo: AnnaLise Bender-Brown

On Friday, September 25, a handful of Black and POC Seattleites gathered early in the morning at Leschi Elementary School to welcome kids to school. The event, Seattle High 5, co-organized by Seattle residents Sharon Chang and Shanelle West, was modeled on a recent Hartford, Connecticut event wherein Black men gathered to welcome students to school to counter stereotypes about men of color, highlighting the organizing and community-building abilities of Black men in particular. 

Seattle High 5 aimed to do the same, but with community members of color of all genders. The event organizers used Facebook to mobilize community members; Many attendees mentioned that they had found out about the event through Facebook, some of them even having heard about the event on the morning it took place. 

Organizer Sharon Chang wrote that "the crux of this effort is to counter dominant negative stereotypes of Black people. Even with the #BlackLivesMatter movement we're still seeing so many negative images of Black folk in the media." Seattle High 5, she explained, aimed to honor the validity and importance of agitation and protest while also "spreading counter-narrative images and ideas of Black people as full of joy, love, community and caring."

To welcome students into the building, the adults gathered outside on the steps and stood in two lines, flanking the students as they filed into the building for class. Multiple kids were beaming, cheering, and jumping to reach high fives from the tallest attendees. 

Photo: AnnaLise Bender-Brown

Attendee Evana Enabulele high-fives a Leschi Elementary student.

Gerald Donaldson, organizer Shanelle West's father, is the family support worker at Leschi Elementary. He expressed gratitude, and excitement for the future, to attendees after the event, mentioning that he hopes to foster mentorship relationships between POC adults in the community and Leschi students. 

Leschi is currently implementing an educational model unlike most schools: half the day is spent in contemporary-style class structure, and half the day is spent in Montessori learning. Donaldson mentioned that the Montessori model has been historically implemented in mostly white schools; Leschi's two-part educational structure represents a divergence from that norm.

Multiple attendees at the event stressed the importance of serving as role models of color for children, emphasizing the importance of "walking the walk" when it comes to counteracting negative stereotypes about people of color. Event organizers Chang and West hope to put on more High 5 events in Seattle in the future. 

To stay updated on future High 5 events, check out the hashtag #SeattleHigh5 on social media. Thanks to Sharon Chang and Shanelle West.

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