Photo via: YouTube
It was a proud day when Jaisaan Lovett found out that he had officially earned the coveted distinction of valedictorian of his senior class. Soon after, he also learned that he was the first African American valedictorian to be named in his young charter school’s four year graduation history. In spite of being valedictorian, Lovett was told that he could not make remarks during graduation. Rochester Mayor, Lovely Warren, intervened to allow Lovett to deliver his speech on the city's YouTube channel.
Even though it is a long standing tradition for a graduating class’ valedictorian to address the class during their commencement ceremony, Lovett shared that no one from University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men extended an invitation to him to speak. When he approached school principal, Joseph Munno, his reply was simply no. “He didn’t want to see the speech or what it said, nothing,” Lovett said in an interview with The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “He just said no.” While Principal Munno has never given a specific reason for denying Lovett’s speaking request, it is speculated that due to Lovett’s outspoken nature as a student leader and having been very vocal in his disagreements with Munno around school policies, he was potentially silenced for these reasons.
Coincidently Lovett had recently completed an internship in Mayor Warren’s office. After hearing of the unfortunate situation, she quickly stepped in to lift up the talented and outspoken young man by allowing him to deliver his carefully prepared speech on camera. His speech was then shared via the City of Rochester’s official YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
″Unfortunately Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech,” Warren said before handing the mic over to Lovett. “For some reason, his school, in a country where freedom of speech is a constitutional right, and the city of Frederick Douglass, turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.”
Lovett went on to thank his parents and peers for their support and even addressed Principal Munno. "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.
Lovett is set to attend Clark Atlanta University in the fall on a full ride scholarship. He plans to study video game design. Congratulations Jaisaan and thank you Mayor Warren for recognizing the urgent necessity for this young man to be heard and celebrated.