ST. PETERSBURG, FL––Yesterday morning morning, young African women gathered at the front of Gibbs High School to conduct a press conference to discuss an incident that had happened a few days prior.
Gibbs High School Senior Jelani Masozi was forced by a school administrator, accompanied by a resource officer, to remove her head wrap on Thursday, August 25th, 2016.
The intimidating presence of the officer, armed to the teeth with a gun, taser, and pepper spray––identical to the police officers that murder us in the streets––caused Jelani to feel like she had no other option but to remove her headwrap.
This humiliating, demoralizing request caused her to call the President of the African National Women’s Organization (ANWO), Yejide Orunmila, who directed her to put her headwrap back on.
The next day, Jelani would not be alone. Another Gibbs High School Senior, and member of ANWO, Liu Kwayera went to school in an African headwrap, to show support and stand in unity with Jelani. The same administrator and police officer attempted to harass Liu about her wrap until they saw both Jelani and Liu wearing them together.
This was a clear indication that these two young girls would not back down so easily.
And they didn’t.
Under the leadership of ANWO, local St. Pete Uhuru Movement organizers pulled together a press conference to confront the Pinellas County dress code policies.
Liu went onto the Gibbs campus during the lunch period to pull students who united with the struggle to overturn the dress code policy that directly attacks African students. She managed to lead more than ten people out of the school, past several armed officers to the press conference.
Akilé Anai, another member of ANWO, opened the press conference with this statement:
“Gibbs High School was a black school in its conception. In recent years, this school abandoned the education of African students and invested majority of their resources into the performing arts magnet program that would come to exclude the majority of African students through discriminatory criteria and policies.
“African students at Gibbs have been under attack for many years now; the student dress code policy being among those attacks. Strategically targeting African people through means of which we dress, our clothes being one of the few things we can tie to the reclamation of our identities, are criminalized and enforced by high school administrators and so called “resource” officers.”
Second to speak was Liu, who delved deeper into the incident that happened Thursday, calling on everyone to support the demands of Black Community Control of Schools and the police; as well as a demand to create an ANWO chapter on the Gibbs campus.
ANWO calls on all Gibbs students to wear their headwraps, dashikis and other forms of traditional African clothing to school on Wednesday, August 31st, and every Wednesday moving forward.
We also encourage those who stand in unity with the students to do so online by posting photos of themselves wearing headwraps and using the hashtag #BlackGirlWrapWednesday!
ANWO’s next action around this campaign will be the school wide, wrap wearing protest every Wednesday, starting on today, August 31st.
We will also be challenging this policy at Gibbs High School back-to-school night 6:30 pm tonight.
We encourage every single African student and parent to come out and demand the removal of the dress code policy which criminalizes African youth and places an attack on African culture.
Stop the attack on African Culture at Gibbs High School!
We demand the freedom of African Cultural expression!