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The Black Experience at Palatine High School: A Student Directed Documentary

This blog is the nineteenth installment of UIC Radio’s Black History Month series profiling and celebrating the work of Black artists throughout the month of February. To read the previous entry in this series, click here! For more information regarding Black History Month at UIC and the many upcoming events planned over the next several weeks, visit the Black History Month Student Planning Committee’s webpage here.

I attended Palatine High School between the years of 2014-2018. In the time I was a student there, I can only name two Black educators from memory, both of whom are no longer educators at Palatine. In case you are unfamiliar, Palatine is a Northwest suburb of Chicago with a population of approximately 109,000. The high school itself (one of two in the town) has a student population of approximately 2,600. According to Illinois Report Card, Palatine’s student population is 46.1% Hispanic, 37.9% White, 8.1% Asian, 5.3% Black, and the remaining 2.5% belongs to Pacific Islanders and Mixed Race students. While this school has a majority non-white population, you wouldn’t exactly know it from looking at their AP classes or student activities.

In order to bring light to some of these disparities, members of the school’s Advancement for Black Leaders (ABL) and Black History Month Planning Committee (both of which were created just this year with first year Palatine administrator, Mr. Michael Malik Smith, as a sponsor) took the initiative to create a documentary collecting the experiences of Black students and educators at Palatine High School. Seniors Anya Ball, Brandon Sutherland, and Michael Jaggers conducted interviews, directed, and produced this documentary, despite the difficulties and limitations caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This documentary includes thoughtful commentary from current students and educators, as well as heartbreaking truths about an education that doesn’t educate all students.

As a former student, a former Black student, I am filled with pride at the courage, audacity, and leadership these students portrayed to create something that documents their experiences, which unfortunately aren’t unique to just Palatine High School. I am also filled with sorrow to see some of the very same issues I faced as a student are still present today. Unlike me, however, this generation of students have the courage to speak with honesty. Please support these students in their pursuit of speaking honestly.

Find the documentary here on YouTube.

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