Dear Orting Students, Staff, Families and Community Members,
The most recent homicide of George Floyd from Minneapolis, MN is just one cruel example that has exposed the historic and systemic racism that has been running through the veins of our country since before I was a young boy in Louisiana, where I was required to use a separate entrance at the grocery store and drink from a separate water fountain.
As your School Board President and a minority in our community, I would like to share my story in hopes that it leads to a deeper understanding of our nation’s long history of racial and social injustice, and our district’s first steps to a more inclusive tomorrow.
I grew up in Louisiana during the Jim Crow era when laws in the South enforced racial segregation. My grandmother never went to school, instead spending her life picking cotton. She had six children and my grandmother chose my mother, who was the youngest, as the only one to attend college. Grandma made her promise that she was to send her own children to school one day. “They can’t take your education from you,” my grandmother said. Both my mom and dad were teachers. My mother taught in Seattle for over 30 years and was once named Teacher of the Year. She kept her promise to her mother and sent all of her 3 children to college. Promises made and promises kept.
Twenty-one years ago, I moved to Orting. I believe I was the first black man to move into this community at that time. I proudly served 13 years on the city council, have served 6 years on the Orting School Board, and 5 as the Board President. Two of my children graduated from Orting High School and attended and graduated from the University of Washington. This community has been good to us, and I am proud to live here. But let me be clear, it has not been an existence free from prejudice or racial struggle.
Both in Louisiana and here in Washington State, I knew there were places where you just don’t go as a black man, especially after dark. My mother used to tell me, “don’t let the streetlights catch you,” for fear I would be stopped by the police and not come home. Black men often disappeared from our communities in the south, absorbed by a system of racial segregation and hatred that treated them differently than their white counterparts.
In my 21 years of living in this community, I have witnessed growth in both our population and diversity which is clearly evident in our student demographics. Over a quarter of Orting students identify as Black, Hispanic/Latino, or two or more races. We're coloring the pages in Orting with bright and pretty colors, and as a school district, we must be prepared to welcome everyone. So today, as we enter into our last week of school, send off our graduates, and look to a new school year, we want to share this message:
Our doors are open to all, and we will not stand for racism of any kind.
Ensuring equality for all is not just what our students need from the adults around them, it is what many are now demanding. I've done my marches; I've done my time. And now, I am ecstatic to see young people coming-out in mass to demand change. This generation is smarter, brighter, braver, and has so much passion. They won't stop, and for that I feel a renewed sense of hope for our collective future.
While there is much work to be done, one significant first step includes monthly meetings between Dr. Tony Apostle, Superintendent, and Orting staff to engage in discussions of cultural change, social justice, equity, racial respect, and minority recruiting strategies. He has previous experience in other school systems to collaborate successfully with staff of color and others interested in bringing cultural change within a school community. Together, we will ensure that each student feels supported and be the voice for those who are too afraid to speak. If we as adults do not listen to the alarm that is ringing for social justice, then we are failing to truly prepare our students for life.
Thank you for reading and listening to my inner voice, Stanley Holland Board President, Orting School District