For Faith Blackstone and her family in Chaska, Black History Month is a time to celebrate, reflect and share their African-American culture and history with the community.
This year, the Chaska High School sophomore and her friends made eight posters of African-American figures, groups and symbols in their spare time to display around school after they said the school lacked Black History Month posters
The idea was to put one poster up every day during the last week of the month.
However, Blackstone and her mother Tonya Coleman claim school officials prohibited displaying some of the posters, which included notable figures such as Malcolm X and Emmett Till, a black boy who was killed after he was accused of whistling at a white woman. They also say a poster with an explanation of the Black Lives Matter group was also rejected.
Blackstone and her friends ultimately decided they didn’t want to put up any of the posters because they felt their messages were "censored."
On March 1, Blackstone and her friends took to the halls of Chaska High School to protest the school’s decision. They chanted “Black History Uncensored.” Another group of boys held an “All Lives Matter” sign and tailed the group to class, according to Blackstone’s social media posts.
In an interview, Principal Jim Bach said the posters weren’t censored and administration asked the students to first put up the posters with more “historical context,” before one with an explanation of “Black Lives Matter.”
Bach said he had only seen one poster, which contained the "Black Lives Matter" information from the series.
Without more context, Bach said he believed other students might not understand the group and bring up Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter messages — which were started in response the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We didn’t want to take away from the message,” Bach said. “We wouldn’t censor somebody.”
On Wednesday, Blackstone and her mother displayed the posters at the Chaska Event Center, in an event called “Black History 365 Uncensored.”
“It’s important to me. I wanted (the students) to know you don’t have to rely on the school to get their message out,” Coleman said.
The school also planned an assembly Wednesday morning with the theme of “respect,” in response to the recent reports, which included a Chaska middle school boy who found a racial slur written on his gym shirt.
“It’s going to talk about civil discourse, conflict resolution, hurtful language,” Bach said on Monday.
The idea for the posters came to Blackstone and her friends when they were eating lunch.
“We were all sitting at lunch and we were wondering why we haven’t seen anything for Black History month up,” she said. Blackstone and a group of about four other students went to Bach’s office, who said they could put up the posters, she said.
That was in mid-February.
So Blackstone and her friends worked long weekends to complete the posters, Coleman said. But after meetings with administrators, the two said some of the posters had been rejected.
“They told me that Malcolm X is too violent and it wouldn’t send the community a nice message,” Blackstone said.
The move is a step back for African-American students, said Coleman.
“Those kids are going to be gone in a few years, but they (the administration) have damaged their self esteem and their sense of who they are because they were censored,” she said.
Coleman said moving on, she hopes all teachers receive more training and that the district hires more black teachers.
Coleman also advocates that African-American history be taught more and at all grades.
“I think it would go a long way to empathy and highlighting black excellence,” she said. “If kids don’t understand where cultures have been, to show what make you comfortable — it creates a movement where kids are uncomfortable with discussion and discourse.”