Letter to the Editor: Wu should speak up about Roxbury Prep

To the Editor:

In February, I had a private meeting with City Councillor Michelle Wu in her office along with my former principal and current staff member at Roxbury Prep High School. We were there to ask that my school, Roxbury Prep, be treated fairly.  For 400 days, my school has waited to be placed on the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) agenda for a vote on a project for a new high school at 361 Belgrade Ave. in Roslindale, a site that is already zoned for a school.

For the past several years, my peers in 11th and 12th grade have been separated from 9th and 10th graders. We didn’t have a cafeteria or updated science labs. We ate lunch at our desks and walked a mile to the Y for gym. Meanwhile, 361 Belgrade continues to stand as an unused automotive service center instead of a beautiful public high school for beautiful Black and Latinx children.

I am grateful that many elected officials of color have already taken a position of support for our cause.  I wanted Councillor Wu to do so as well. She lives in Roslindale, where our proposed school would be. We appealed to her for help. I was surprised by what she told me in that meeting in February.

She told us: You have been mistreated. You have been made to go on a wild goose chase. The reason you have not been placed on the agenda stems from racism. And then she told us that she would remain silent on this injustice.

She doesn’t want to see a school at that site, even though it is zoned for a school. This is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. What is disheartening is that the councillor declined to call out the injustice in her own community, in her own back yard. 

I just graduated from high school. I’m headed to Brown University on a full scholarship to study biochemistry, despite the fact that our inadequate school building didn’t have the type of lab that my new peers at Brown would have had. But my siblings are in middle school at Roxbury Prep. They deserve the new high school that my peers and I deserved and didn’t get.

The world is different today than it was in February. Many people are recognizing that silence from good people is a tool of oppressors, allowing people to easily ignore the problem at hand. Councillor Wu wrote in her email to supporters recently: “Black Lives Matter. And we must all use every platform and lever of power to confront racism in our lives, laws, and institutions.”

She added: “To move forward, the question for every elected official should not be whether we can point to some work to address racism, but whether we are taking all possible action within our power to implement anti-racist policies, from legislation to budgets and oversight. Hold us accountable to get it done.”

I am hopeful in reading those words. Perhaps Councillor Wu now recognizes what that means to the students and families of Roxbury Prep and that she will finally make a public statement about 361 Belgrade.

Yinessa Baez
Roxbury Prep Class of 2020