MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Students at Patrick Henry High School are organizing to change the name of their school.
“#ChangeTheName” is picking up steam, and now alumni and members of the community are joining the movement.
Students say Patrick Henry’s past as a slave owner was enough to make them want a change.
“You can’t change something unless people know first: what are we changing, why are we changing it?” Patrick Henry student Janaan Ahmed said.
Janaan Ahmed and Farhiyo Hassan says change comes by educating their peers about the damaging effects of upholding what they call oppressive figures, like Patrick Henry.
“Patrick Henry and this institution was created at a time where integration was not allowed and segregation was promoted so if you look at the history and the demographics of people who are living in these neighborhoods, then you would understand the context to us, and why it is so important to us today,” student Farhiyo Hassan said.
Patrick Henry is known for his famous declaration to the second Virginia Convention: “Give me liberty or give me death.”
“I feel like the name does not reflect the students, the school embodies, nor does it reflect the community,” Ahmed said. “And the name is degrading, and it’s oppressive.”
The group wants a name that fully represents everyone who attend the school. They are taking suggestions from students, staff and community members as well as alumni.
Some alumni have told the group why they don’t want the name to change.
“You can’t blame Patrick Henry for a system that was the norm back then, you can’t blame him for owning slaves because that’s what every founding father did,” Ahmed said, explaining the counter-arguments she heard from others.
This group says they can’t be proud of a former Virginia governor who owned slaves. And with a school that is 90 percent students of color — 52 percent black — the group says changing the name of a place they are proud of is a must.
“Is this person worthy enough to be glorified? Is this person worthy enough to be on my diploma? So we want a name that is inclusive, because we don’t want our future generations to struggle when it comes to history and how they are being represented. We want a name that will last forever,” Ahmed said.
An alumni and community gathering is planned for Wednesday at the high school inside its media center.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the students with legal fees.