When the first black valedictorian of a Rochester, N.Y. high school was mysteriously denied the opportunity to give his graduation speech, he received an even better option.
Jaisaan Lovett graduated last month as the valedictorian of University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men, becoming the first black student to ever earn that title. But when his principal denied him the chance to give his prepared remarks at the graduation, the city’s black female mayor stepped in, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Mayor Lovely Warren not only offered him the chance to give his speech at City Hall, but she also made sure that it was posted on her Facebook page and on her Youtube channel.
Lovett knew the Mayor from his two years as an intern in her office, the Washington Post reports.
“Unfortunately, Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech,” Warren said in the video. “For some reason, his school – in a country where freedom of speech is a constitution right, and the city of Frederick Douglass – turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.
She added: ”Jaisaan will never graduate from high school again. He will never get that moment back. This is not the time to punish a child because you may not like what he has to say.“
Lovett has acknowledged that years of student protests may have made his relationship with his Principal, Joseph Munno, prickly. In one instance last year, according to USA Today, Lovett led a five-day student strike because the school wouldn’t order needed safety equipment for a lab.
But he did not think that he deserved to be shoved aside when it was time to claim his achievement on Graduation Day.
“To Mr. Munno, my principal, there’s a whole lot of things I’ve wanted to say to you for a long time. … I’m here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. I’m still here, and I’m still here strong,“ Lovett said in the video. ”And after all these years, all this anger I’ve had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself.“
The school’s board of trustees released a Facebook statement announcing that they were “reviewing the circumstances regarding what happened.”
But Lovett will be long gone by then. The high-achieving student is headed to Clark Atlanta University on a full-ride scholarship.
Watch his full speech below: