The Hilltop Parade Protest

More than a Parade, but a Call for Black Voices to be Heard on the Hilltop


Credit: Eki Uzamere

Commemorating the end of a school year, celebrating the seniors, and the clear and unequivocal call for Hackley to do better.

On Friday, June 5th, the administration welcomed students and faculty back to the campus for the first-ever Hilltop Parade.

The Hilltop Parade served as a way to get the Hackley community back together on campus, and students expressed how great it was to see everyone in person, rather than through a computer.

To the Black community and their allies, this parade not only meant celebrating Hackley, the seniors, and the end of the school year but peacefully protesting to have Black voices heard on the Hilltop.

Recent events of police brutality have sparked a call to action across the United States that has coincided with the last week of remote school. Protestors across the country have come out condemning the recent deaths of black men and women who have died at the hands of police officers under questionable circumstances or worse. Furthermore, social media has played an instrumental role in spreading information about how to take action, including recommended resources to help people self-reflect and grow, as well as petitions, protests, and so much more.

To facilitate this kind of expression, Seniors Kylie Morrison, Helen Sileshi, and former Community Council President Taylor Robin took to Instagram, posting on their stories to relay information about the protest to the student body.

“We’re still celebrating Hackley,” senior Helen Sileshi said, “But wouldn’t it be shameful to show up on the Hackley Hilltop, amongst all of the turmoil going on in America right now and just sit in our cars acting like everything’s okay? Because it’s not!”

Senior Kylie Morrison posted on her Instagram story explaining the mission of the protest, saying, “Our mission is to have the voices of Black students heard on the hilltop, in hopes of eradicating both racial bias and the maintenance of white comfort within our community. Through this demonstration, we want to show the administration that we need to actively change the narrative and promote inclusivity, not just talk about doing so.”

School administrators were supportive of the signs. This support was expressed by Middle School Director Cindy Jean in partnership with Upper School Director Andy King in an email to students prior to the parade that responded to rumors of students peacefully organizing, “The events of the last few days have had a significant impact on the students, and we applaud them for finding constructive ways to come together, to process their thinking, and to speak up on behalf of those who are hurting at this time.”

As Americans have been called to take action across the country, protests have erupted. While these protests intend to use peaceful means, some have turned into events of riots, looting, and violence. In addition, while much of the policing of the protests has been supportive, there have been several cases that appear to be police abusing protestors. In all, the combination has made for one of the most volatile weeks in recent history.

The administration worked with organizers of the protest to ensure that everyone stayed in their cars. “Safety in the middle of the pandemic remains critical,” he said.

Furthermore, Helen laid out clear guidelines for the protest with three points; “1. We are not leaving our cars no matter what. 2. There will probably be no chanting. 3. And there will definitely be no rioting.”

Ms. Jean and Mr. King emphasized similar guidelines for the event. While displaying their full support for students, they said in their email, “We must emphasize two key expectations in order to ensure a healthy and safe parade for all. Families and students must remain in their vehicles at all times. Only current students and families are invited tomorrow and only one car per family is permitted on campus. Thank you for understanding our need to care for our families at this time while also supporting our students’ ability to advocate and express themselves.”

Roughly forty percent of students participated in the protest, writing quotes on their windows, and putting signs on their cars. Taylor said the protest went exactly as planned, “People were respectful and stayed in their cars the whole time…It was great to take a moment that is of course supposed to be a celebration and just keep people mindful of these issues as well.”

“I think the protest was useful in the sense that it broke the Hackley bubble,” she added, “I think a lot of the time we come back into campus and it seems as if the issue suddenly goes away, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. So I think it was great to keep people aware of what’s still going on out in the world every day when we don’t have our Hackley campus to comfort us.”

Faculty joined in on the protest as well; “Many faculty dressed in black to show support, while some of us – including all of the Leadership Team – wore black armbands in solidarity with our students,” Mr. Wirtz said.

With the 2020-2021 school year on the horizon, students continue to press for progress, and administrators continue to respond with forward thinking changes that will challenge Hackley to look more critically at social issues in America and unite under the community’s core values.