COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina teachers and students joined a couple hundreds of activists to march for racial equality.
The event, hosted by “I Can’t Breathe SC”, began at the South Carolina Department of Education and ended State House.
There, teachers, educators, and students looked on to a crowd of their peers holding up signs from the State House steps and told stories about their experiences of racial injustices inside the classroom.
While most of the speeches focused on a lack of resources in classrooms, improving public schools, and making sure children feel safe and heard in the classroom, some had more specific demands.
One activist called for more money for guidance counselors and to get rid of resource officers in school.
Student activist Wilhelmina Hunter said she felt SROs were at schools to keep them in line, not to keep them safe.
“I just don’t feel like we need all these officers in our school to watch us…we shouldn’t have to worry about a police officer coming to school and arrested us, “Hunter said. “We should worry about getting our education, growing, and being whatever, we want to be,” she added.
Hunter’s fellow classmate at CA Johnson High Schools, Carl Sumter, said he’s had some amazing teachers in his life who pushed him and took time to get to know him, but that doesn’t always happen, “we want it to be all of them,” Sumter said.
Math teachers Annette Counts and her niece Chelsea said they marched Saturday because they see first-hand how their students of color are just not given the same opportunities as their White counterparts.
Chelsea Counts said the issues behind the Black Lives Matter marches happening in South Carolina and across the country, “start with schools.”
Her aunt said in her more than 20 years of teaching she often sees African American children, regardless of age, under more scrutiny.
"Whenever an example is made it always seems to be an African American male when a female has done the same thing,” Annette Counts said.
She added that she takes time in her classes to teach her students some hard lessons that go beyond grade-school math.
“[I] just to let them know that this world is not just going to be your friend. If you don't do the right things they are going to put you away. So, we need to start preparing. That means remembering to do your homework, remembering to ask questions, to be able to advocate for yourself in a positive manner. So, they will understand your needs and wants," she said.
In a show of the power of students, organizers handed the mic over to a six-year-old African American girl and her White sister. The two stood on stage together and lead the crowd in “This little light of mine.” As the teachers and activists clapped and sang along, it was a show of the encouragement Sumter and Hunter were talking about.
When asked what message the two hoped people will take from the march, Hunter chimed in and said, “it’s not just that Black lives matter, Black minds matter, too.”