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Students Visited Princeton to Talk about Race Relations

Posted: July 9, 2012

In late April, French teacher Maria Bowditch took four Blair students to Princeton University to participate in a symposium on race in America. The symposium, which was attended by high-school students from across the United States, is an annual event held by the university to “promote harmony, understanding and respect among people of different races by identifying and recognizing high school age students whose efforts have had a significant, positive effect on race relations in their schools or communities.”

During the day-long event, Alexis Vinson ’13, Demetrius Daltirus ’14, Tatiana Kalainoff ’13 and Torera Fagbenle ’13 had the opportunity to participate in interactive activities, workshops and conversations on race relations. They also listened to speeches by scholars, Princeton alumni and faculty members, including vice provost and chief diversity officer Michele Minter, who talked about the link between civil rights and higher education. Acclaimed Italian-American poet Richard Cammarieri was also in attendance and read one of his own poems called “Taking Sides.” At an early-May Chapel, Torera shared an excerpt of the poem with fellow students and faculty members:

“I know—we know—what you are about
Don’t tell me about…
The revolution, constitution and democracy
Tell me about indentured servants—the relationship of property to voting
That you could not vote unless you owned property (and were male)
Unless you owned something
Tell me about…
Slavery…brown ships on blue water, a path of bones across the sea
A slave ship captain wrote the hymn Amazing Grace
How sweet the name of Jesus
In his retirement, belated attempt at self-redemption
For the barbarism of his business trips…
Don’t tell me about Manifest Destiny
Tell me about
The Cherokee, the Trail of Tears
Tell me about…
Genocide…
Don’t tell me about…
The Civil War
Tell me about…
Resistance and revolt…
Prosser, Veesey
Tubman, Walker
Turner, Truth, Brown
Tell me about Frederick Douglass…
Tell me about the Ku Klux Klan
Don’t tell me about the Haymarket Square,
Don’t tell me about…the New Deal…
Tell me about…the Depression—the whole story…
The Wobblies, the Veterans Bonus Army…
Tell me about Hoover’s FBI
A microphone under every bed…
…Except his…
Tell me about Dr. King but not ‘I have a dream,’
Don’t tell me that unless you’ve read the whole damn speech
No…don’t tell me about…history…
Unless you tell the truth…the whole truth
But you know it…you know the truth…even if you will not say it…
Because it is the truth…and we know that you lie to stay alive…
So know this…
We will never stop exposing you, confronting you…one way or another…Not until your memory is nothing but a tale we tell our children
About a time when insane people ruled the earth
Who lived to conquer, enslave and kill for insane things
Like profit and privilege
I feel your evil inside of me and I kill it
At least once a day
No you have nothing to say to me
You cannot tell me anything…anymore
—Richard Cammarieri

Last Updated: July 26, 2012