Hampton for Change: Who They Are and What They Do

Photo+Credit%3A+Greta+Hamlin.+The+HHS+administration+office.

Photo Credit: Greta Hamlin. The HHS administration office.

Megan Kang, Writer

Being a person of color in a predominantly white community can be an alienating experience. Whether we like it or not, narratives are often shaped by racial identities and differences. There is little diversity in our school district, but the inclusion of our students of color is a forefront matter all the same.

Black Lives Matter, a movement centered around awareness of racial injustice, police brutality, and creating racial equality for all, reached every crevice of the United States over the past summer. Concerns have entered the Hampton Bubble, and Hampton Township now faces a fundamental question of what must be done in response to various issues that have been brought to light. How we respond now sets the precedent for future actions.

Photo Credit: Greta Hamlin. A Black Lives Matter art piece in downtown Pittsburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our administration decided on a safe move. On June 5th, 2020, Hampton Township School District pushed out a collective statement with other school districts affirming their support for students and families of color. To many in the community, this was not enough. Hampton for Change, a newly formed activism group, questioned how HTSD can stand with these students and families yet not take any definitive anti-racism action. The group voiced their concerns in a widely shared petition letter signed by hundreds. The rapid spread of the open letter gave them a stage that they continue to use. 

Hampton for Change told The Hamptonian, “We are a group that, through partnerships and organizing, advocates for changes in HTSD that will cultivate an anti-racist school environment to the benefit of all students.” 

The organization was founded during the summer of 2020 when like-minded alumni came together because they were passionate about seeing long-overdue changes in Hampton’s schools.

The founders are all recent graduates: Jada Alim ’16, Sam Chantz ’16, Lexi Griggs ’16, and Amanda Zelnis ’17. Three of the founders are former Black students who have had countless racist experiences. They want to make it so that other students don’t have to go through what they and other classmates did.

The group focuses on anti-racist policies, insisting that they are especially important to have in Hampton to improve the quality of education for all students. These policies will drive an inclusive environment and create well-rounded students that will go on to improve Hampton’s already stellar reputation, Hampton for Change said.

The activists’ messages have not been met without resistance. HHS junior Anthony Dietz said, “Their letter was stupid.” He feels that change and increased diversity are not priorities at Hampton.

Even with criticism from the students they are trying to help, Hampton for Change has not wavered in their mission. 

When asked about their mission and goals, the organization called upon a quote by prominent anti-racism activist Ibram X. Kendi: “The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it- and then dismantle it.” 

Their goals fall within the broad categories outlined in the letter. In the short term, Hampton for Change is working on an addendum to the letter which will outline explicit, measurable changes that HTSD can make to improve its schools and strive for anti-racism. They value student perspectives and plan to work directly with students by discussing needed additions with Hampton’s Multicultural Student Association. 

Hampton for Change is also working to accomplish their goals by spreading the word of their organization. They have had a lot of feedback from the community reaching out via social media or email. Their most important work has been with school officials and leaders of HTSD who can change the district’s environment. The group has also had a couple meetings with HTSD officials that have given them a view on their perspective and responses to making change.

The organization hosts meetings that are open to the public by request through email. One of these earliest meetings on August 31st was attended by current HHS students and multiple community members. They discussed what policies and specific asks the founders would bring to the district in future scheduled conferences with administration.

To make sure their work is sustained, Hampton for Change is rooted in an ever-growing movement for anti-racism throughout the community and is working to grow those roots into a strong foundation with multilateral support from stakeholders  including students, teachers, alumni, parents, community groups, and other community members. With this strong foundation, the plan is to establish long-term methods of monitoring the anti-racist changes they have requested from the HTSD faculty.

HHS students can contact Hampton for Change via Instagram, Facebook, or email. They will keep their social media up to date with opportunities to get directly involved.

Photo Credit: Greta Hamlin. A poster celebrating diverse figures in Ms. Aloe’s classroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the formation of Hampton for Change, HTSD did decide to take more action. English and social studies teachers at HHS have been encouraged to pick out new multicultural literature to teach in class. The goal is to realize a glass door environment where students can see into different, more diverse perspectives in texts. Teachers have been given the funds to buy class sets of such books.