On Saturday, June 13, a group of more than 200 parents, students and Coronado community members gathered for a peaceful protest at Spreckels Park to listen to students and parents tell their stories about times they experienced racism within Coronado schools. After hearing from multiple speakers, the group took to the streets marching past Coronado High School (CHS) and Coronado Middle School and through residential streets, before making their way down Orange Avenue. Protesters held signs that read slogans such as, “Teach My Culture” and “Improvement Through Education.”
The crowd of over 200 was made up of people of all races, ages, and genders, all standing together with a shared goal: bring attention to racism within the Coronado Unified School District (CUSD). The event was respectful and well organized.
The event was organized by Anne Edwardson, a Coronado community member, and mother of two African American nine year olds who attend Coronado schools.
Edwardson spoke about her experiences with racism in the CUSD. She explained that her children have been attending Coronado schools since preschool, and it only took until first grade for the racial bullying to start. She told the story of how her daughter was taunted for weeks by a fellow classmate shouting, “black girl, black girl,” every time he passed her.
She has been speaking with children of color and their parents for the past week to learn about their experiences. “A mother explained how her black 10 year old son was sold in a mock slave trade on the playground by two white boys after their class had studied about slavery,” she said.
She urged the members of the audience to put pressure on the administration, and to let their voices be heard at the CUSD school board meeting this Thursday, June 18. She ended by speaking to the parents in the audience saying, “Talk to your children about racism. If it’s not happening in the schools, please do it at home.”
There were many speakers at the event. Selena Hayes, and her children Sidney Hayes, Edward Hayes, Mercedes Hayes and Jay Hayes spoke at the event. Sidney, Edward and Mercedes Hayes have attended Coronado schools since 2008; Sidney graduated in 2012, Mercedes in 2017, and Edward in 2020. Each of them had experiences with racism during their time in school.
Mercedes Hayes detailed the time in fifth grade when she was asked if she was going to be a slave on Colonial Day by another student. Edward Hayes explained how in second grade he was called the n-word by a classmate. Sidney Hayes emphasized that there was not enough representation of people of color as authority figures at CUSD; she saw her first teacher of color when she was 18 while in college. These are not the only incidents they spoke of.
All of them emphasized their love for Coronado. Mercedes Hayes asked, “When will I be a part of Coronado? Because Coronado is a huge part of me.” Her mother Selena Hayes added, “I’m asking this wonderful community - we’ve had a wonderful experience here in other ways, and met wonderful people here - help us come up with the solution because my kids are tired.”
Rachel Ricker is an educator, and wanted to bring her perspective as a white graduate of Coronado High School. She explained that the transition to college after graduating from CHS was a culture shock. “I didn’t feel adequately prepared for academic conversations with people who had different opinions than I did. I didn’t feel adequately prepared to understand the stories of thousands of students who looked different than I did.”
Ricker remembered a single instance during all her years in Coronado schools when a teacher explicitly acknowledged that life was different for people outside of Coronado. She’s spoken to various students from the CUSD, and that what she hears, especially from the white students, or students that don’t present as black or brown, is that they have had to take it upon themselves to learn about issues of race and discrimination, because so little is taught about it within the Coronado schools.
After all of the speakers had finished telling their stories, the group mobilized and began to march towards Coronado High School and the Coronado Middle School. As they walked, they chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, children of color matter here,” along with, “What do we want? Diversity! When do we want it? Now!”
As they marched through a residential area, people were coming out of their houses to record the crowd, some yelled cheers of encouragement, others shouted offensive phrases.
The protesters wrapped around back to Spreckels Park, where the march officially ended. Some of the group decided they wanted to keep the momentum going, so they continued their march down Orange Avenue in an effort to inspire the community to continue the conversation.