Portland Public Schools (PPS) took a step into the inclusive direction this year, with the commencement of their first annual Latino Baccalaureate, hosted by Oscar Gilson the director of PPS High Schools. Every graduating Latinx student across all PPS high schools was invited to the event that was hosted at Roosevelt High School on June 2. The event featured student speakers, a Mariachi band, catering, and three hours of relaxation and a sense of community.
Portland, OR is the whitest metropolitan area in the U.S., putting a lot of pressure on people of color. The lack of diversity gives a sense of loner-ship; of course, your family is there, but in Portland, for people of color, you may have to travel very far to see another teenager that looks like you. That sense of community that is often lost for people of color is indescribable.
To be able to smile and laugh for the 2-3 hours when you’re all together is like you’re in another world, where your everyday problems are lifted off of you for a little bit. I know that when I’m walking around by myself it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders but when I’m able to be in a room full of people of color, it’s like a safe haven.
When you’re sharing a stage full of strong, beautiful, joyful, Latinx graduates, white-passing or Afrocentric, it’s a feeling I think a lot of people on that stage would describe as “Prideful”. It is extremely important for schools to be multicultural. There needs to be more recognition for the great work that people of color accomplish in school. Acknowledging and giving space for people of color is essential in a white-dominant culture society. It allows students of color to feel appreciated or valued in an otherwise discriminatory and racist society.
Lincoln High School, a local high school in Oregon, has an annual multicultural assembly, that of which is hosted and run by students of color. To see underrepresented cultures come together and just have space, merely 15 minutes per club, left us all in tears. It ended with each club coming together in a corny movie moment, singing “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. Students of color reading this, please come together and form a student union, it will be incredibly rewarding in the end to commemorate those who often go unacknowledged.