HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Students and teachers at Central Dauphin High School are trying to change the conversation and move forward after a racial post online.
Those involved with what’s turning into a social media campaign hope their message of tolerance and equality sinks in.
“Hopefully change our school for the better,” Jessica Brown, a senior and president of the school’s African-American Heritage Club, said Thursday.
Reminders of Brown’s and the school’s mission hang in the halls: photos of students holding hand-written notes encouraging passersby to choose pride and destroy the hate, the theme of the campaign.
After a photo was posted on social media showing several CD students posing with a racial slur, students and faculty here wanted to do something.
A video shot and edited by faculty members during a forum in October shows the result. The gathering allowed everyone to discuss the issues and to learn tools to deal with discrimination.
The group didn’t want to single out the girls who posted the controversial photo, Brown said, instead focusing on larger issues that have plagued this school and many others like it.
The get-together went beyond race and touched on other types of discrimination.
“It’s bigger than just a racial slur,” Amber Sessoms said. “There’s these underlying issues that people say in common everyday language that are also just as harmful that make people question their identity and who they are.”
Sessoms, the school’s psychologist, teamed up with school social worker Micah Beaston to set the tone of the forum. They had seen videos online of kids writing down the hurtful language they’ve experienced.
They wanted to give it a twist.
Students wrote things that go beyond the obvious racial slurs, like, “You can’t do anything a man can,” and “You talk white.”
The video and photos then show the students destroying that hate, tearing up the paper they wrote on and replacing it with pride. The photos can be found on social media with the hashtag #DestroyTheHate.
They did the same with a crowd twice the size at their second forum Thursday.
“We’re trying to say this is an issue,” Sessoms said. “We want to hear from you. We’re hearing your hurt and your pain and we’re validating that, but we’re going to take that pain and use it for something positive.”
“Many students may be afraid of speaking out and knowing that there’s a place out there for you to do that,” Brown said. “I think that has helped a tremendous amount.”
The school plans to keep holding the forums through the end of the school year. The next one is in a couple weeks.