This past week, a team of local high school students installed a ‘Black Lives Matter’ decal on the basketball court at Rogers High School.  To my understanding, this is the first action of its kind in the Rhode Island public school system and one that is meant to draw attention to institutional racism in our society today. 

Sophomores Miyah Brooks, Maeve Crowley, and Ellie Margolis spearheaded the project after encouragement from the school’s Athletic Director, James Cawley Jr.   Junior Luc Lavigueur and sophomore Camilla May also assisted with the project, helping get the stickers ready for their final installation on the floor.  

Mr. Cawley said that this was something he had been considering for months before a plan of action was put in place.  “Last summer I knew that we, as a school community, wanted to be involved with something that will help keep the conversation about racial inequality in our society going.  Placing a “Black Lives Matter” decal on the court to be viewed during volleyball and basketball season seemed like a perfect opportunity to highlight this cause.”

The trio of student-athletes, all of whom play basketball and are actively engaged in other sports and school activities, were presented with this opportunity due to their experience working with this type of medium.  

All three girls are currently taking advertising design and new media, a class taught by Mr. Dave Connell, who was instrumental in helping the girls create the graphic and provided the resources for this idea to become a reality.  

“It’s just an incredible opportunity for our young adults to continue the conversation about what’s going on in our country.  We hope that this installation reinforces that our school cares about our students and gives them a platform to share their voices,” said Connell.

Brooks, who took on a leadership role with this project and was the backbone behind the installation, shared her feelings about the logo and the BLM movement with What’s Up Newp.  “Genuinely, this isn’t something I ever imagined working on in my high school,” said Brooks.  “Not because Rogers doesn’t support this movement but because it could cause so much controversy in the local community. This is something that means so much to me, so much to us, especially as a young woman of color. I was filled with happiness when Mr. Cawley and Mr. Connell approached us about this decal project.”

The girls, who spoke this weekend with What’s Up Newp, say that they have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from not only their peers but the faculty and staff at Rogers as well.  “When we were handed this opportunity, I couldn’t believe it.  Now, when I walk into that gymnasium I have a whole new sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that every person who walks through those doors knows what our school stands for and what we support.”

“It’s such an important message and it’s surreal that we were allowed this opportunity to share a message that means so much to our entire school community, regardless of race or color.  I like to believe that we don’t see that here at Rogers,” said Margolis. 

“I think it’s so great. Now every time another high school team comes to Rogers, they will see “Black Lives Matter” on our court.  Hopefully this encourages them to speak up as well and hopefully other schools across the state will give them the same support to share their voice that our teachers have given us,” said Crowley.

The girls also mentioned that there are future plans for other installations throughout the building and the athletic department plans to use the resources provided by Mr. Connell’s new media class to print decals for athletic helmets as well. 

“Personally, I don’t think there is much of a discussion.  This is something that everyone should acknowledge.  Black lives do matter,” said Brooks.  “I know that this won’t instantly change people’s perceptions of social injustice and what is happening across our country but as a young black woman, I feel that this is somewhere to start.  It’s a daily reminder to everyone that we can all do better.” 

Institutional racism directly impacts education, our community, and our world.  This is the first of many actions of solidarity planned at Rogers to continue to bring awareness to a much larger social issue, and it’s amazing to watch these young leaders step up and share their voice.