MOORHEAD — More than 100 students from Moorhead High School walked out of class Monday, April 19, to express their concerns about local racism and police violence after the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
The students left the school at about 9:45 a.m. and walked several blocks to Romkey Park where they knelt in silence and later gave impassioned speeches. Students of various backgrounds voiced their fears of being racially targeted, being sexually abused and called for solidarity to stand up against racism.
Wright, a black man, was killed by police officer Kimberly Ann Potter, a white woman, during a traffic stop on April 11 in Brooklyn Center. Potter has resigned and now faces a manslaughter charge.
Moorhead senior Felis Ibrahim said she's one of several organizers of MHS BIPOC, a newly formed group for students of color.
“I am scared for my fellow black brothers in this country,” Ibrahim told the crowd of protesters. “I’m scared my brother will become another hashtag.”
Ibrahim, who feared suspension from school because of walking out, told students to confront racism and microaggressions, statements or actions that are indirect or subtle or unintentionally discriminating against a certain group. She said she sees such microaggressions in school frequently, sometimes even from teachers.
Before Ibrahim came to America from war-torn Somalia, she thought the United States was a place of safety.
“We had no idea we’d be dealing with far worse issues than starving. It’s far worse than Somalia,” Ibrahim said. “We are having people making counterarguments such as All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, and it will take more rallies to change people.”
Brenda Richman, a spokeswoman for Moorhead Area Public Schools, said the walkout was part of a wider Minnesota student-led effort to honor Wright. She did not say whether students who walked out would face school discipline.
"Like any other absence, students are excused with parent permission," Richman said. "As a district, we are committed to continue to create equitable and inclusive environments for our entire student and staff population."
Sophomore Angelina Dimo said she's half black and half Kurdish and has received many racist remarks from classmates in person and through anonymous messages.
“We came here for a better life. People of color need to speak out against microaggressions, including teachers,” Dimo said. “Silence is violence.”
“This is for all racial groups at MHS and the Fargo-Moorhead community,” said Jaidyn Edwards, a junior. “We can’t divide among ourselves. We are all a community, and we can be there for each other.”
Sophomore Richard Andrzejewski stood up to speak to his classmates, saying that he supported the struggle of people of color. “I realize I am a white man and some people would think I have no right to be here. But a lot of my friends are people who have been racially slurred,” Andrzejewski said. “Black lives matter.”
“Racism is institutional here,” said Scout Holding Eagle-Bushaw, a 10th-grader. “Moorhead tries hard, but they are failing students of color every day. I’m scared it will be my sister next dead on the street. I’m scared for my friends of color who might be killed or pulled over. Our community should not be like that.”
Sophomore Jessica Djarnie cried while speaking to fellow students.
“I am a strong black woman and an immigrant. And I experience so much racism. Back home, America seemed like a dreamland. Here, how do I tell a 7 year old that she will experience this for her whole life? I can’t. I have to tell her to be strong,” Djarnie said.
“We need to come together and stand against all these things happening in our school."