Student Voices Drive Powerful BLM Protest

Published by Chris Wangler - June 14, 2020.

Youth from a new group, Waltham Against Racism (W.A.R.), rallied hundreds from all backgrounds and ages on Saturday during an impassioned push for racial justice.

“We are all here today to make change for black people living in this country,” said Sophia Noel (WHS ‘20), one of several young women of color who spurred the peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration.

Starting at WHS, she and other youth led protestors down Lexington and Bacon Streets to Leary Field, shouting slogans such as “Hands up. Don’t shoot” and “Whose streets? Our streets.”

At rallies before and after the march, former Waltham Public Schools students described discrimination they suffered and criticized the response from administrators.

“The first time I was called the N-word was when I attended Kennedy Middle School,” said former WPS student Clifmon Leroy, who internalized racism that interfered with his learning.

Clifmon Leroy earned a large applause for his speech on the racism he experienced in Waltham and how it relates to the bigger problem in society.


He said a protest he planned over incidents of mistreatment at WHS was “met with resistance on every level by faculty, teachers, SRO officers and even other students.”






Muriel Dol (WHS ‘20), accepted into Harvard, said she understood the purpose of reading To Kill a Mockingbird in the 8th grade.

But a teacher’s decision to allow students to decide whether to say the N-word during classroom readings upset her and other black students, especially after a white student then said the word at lunch.

She said the English teacher and the principal failed her when she spoke up.

“Teachers, especially white educators, need to be willing to listen, be uncomfortable and realize they may have more to learn than to teach,” she said.

WHS senior Muriel Dol has been accepted to Harvard. Having experienced racism, she said emotional intelligence and empathy can help heal racial scars. "Without being able to understand one another, we can't advance as a society."


Others sought change in police culture. “We love family members who are law enforcement,” said Melissa Nicolas (WHS ‘17). “Every good cop knows a bad cop. Why do you still know a bad cop? What are you doing about it?

Saturday’s demonstration was one of the largest and most well organized in Waltham in recent memory, with 500+ pledged to attend on Facebook and endorsements from more than a dozen different Waltham groups.

“There’s numbers of you,” Mayor Jeannette McCarthy told demonstrators at Leary Field. “And numbers are power. Don’t stop here. I’m very proud of you and the work you’ve done.”

Youth from Waltham Against Racism (W.A.R.) were assisted by advisors from the Waltham Boys & Girls Club, including lead organizer Anna Sebunnya.

Although the club was not an official sponsor, club kids spearheaded the event, which included two powerful vocal performances from former Waltham Idol winners.

“Don’t let them change the narrative,” said club Teen Coordinator Kendall Gillians. He encouraged protestors to keep having difficult conversations with friends and family.