A Prep School Wouldn't Let Its First Black Valedictorian Give a Speech. Then the Mayor Got Involved.
By Joseph Barracato
For years, Jaisaan Lovett took classes, studied hard and thrived at a Rochester high school, graduating last month as the school's first black valedictorian, but the principal didn't care one bit, refusing to let the teen speak at commencement ceremonies.
It was the end of what Lovett described as a six-year battle with school administrator at University Prepatory Charter School for Young Men, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
In his speech, Lovett was planning to thank his parents, siblings and teachers as well as encourage his classmates, the newspaper's website reported. But the principal, Joseph Munno, would have none of it, and has yet to say why he tried to muzzle his star student.
Luckily for Lovett, someone else was interested in hearing what he had to say -- Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, in whose office he works as an intern.
Warren invited Lovett to City Hall to deliver the speech, which she then posted to the city's official YouTube channel.
"To Mr. Munno, my principal, there's a whole lot of things I've wanted to say to you for a long time. ... 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 before saying he felt the principal held personal animosity toward him.
"And after all these years, all this anger I've had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself. And I forgive you for everything I held against you."
Lovett, who landed a full scholarship to Clark Atlanta University, acknowledged he and Munno had several disagreements over the past six years.
One instance in particular occurred when Lovett led a student strike to claim the school wouldn't order needed safety equipment for a lab.
"There's a lot of wrong things that go on at that school, and when I notice it I speak out against it," Lovett told the Democrat and Chronicle. "(Munno) is a guy that doesn't like to be told 'no.' "
The valedictorian said he wasn't approached to deliver a speech and when he requested permission to Munno turned him down.
"He didn't want to see the speech or what it said, nothing," Lovett said. "He just said no."
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