A Texas high school principal shut off the class valedictorian’s microphone when she mentioned Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice during her commencement speech because it would send a message that “…you will get shot if you’re Black in America.”
Dallas Independent School District’s Emmett J. Conrad High School held its graduation June 3. Class of 2019 valedictorian Rooha Hagharmehdiabadi was nearing the end of her address when Conrad principal Temesghen Asmerom signaled for her microphone to be cut, using obvious hand signals as seen in video, as soon as she said “Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.”
“my valedictorian speech was cut short because i said the names of black children who had become victims of police brutality. our principal signaled for my mic to be turned off as soon as i said “trayvon martin and tamir rice” and played it off as a technical difficulty. pathetic,” Hagharmehdiabadi tweeted. Her Twitter handle is ItsRoohaHaghar.
The graduate heading to the University of Texas at Austin, followed up her initial tweet with detailed explanation’s of what happened before, including portions of text from her speech and the background on the school’s warning not to mention Martin and Rice.
“i really think my principal did this out of ignorance, and we all have room for growth. i never meant to create more divisiveness, but i also feel like certain conversations need to be had…”
Asmerom is a former DISD vice principal who has been at the helm at Emmett J. Conrad for almost two years.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rooha Hagharmehdiabadi Had Just Said, ‘Trayvon Martin & Tamir Rice,’ When Principal Asmerom Motioned to Have Her Mic Cut
Hagharmehdiabadi was very near the end of her address to the Class of ’19 when there was a literal mic drop. She said the move by her school principal was “pathetic.” She claims it was because she said their names.
“…because i said the names of black children who had become victims of police brutality …”
The video posted to Twitter is closing on on nearly 500,000 views. Few if any comments support Asmerom’s move. Indeed, most salute Hagharmehdiabadi for her conviction to speak.
2. Asmerom Warned Her Not to Mention Martin & Rice & the Speech Was ‘Censored,’ But She Read her Original to Her Class at Graduation & Was Silenced
She and a teacher and Asmerom had gone over her speech and she described the result as censorship. She said she had a choice to make and she chose to use her own words whatever the consequences might be. She did not anticipate being silenced.
She said when she first read her speech to an unnamed male teacher, she was “told mentioning those names one side anger towards white people, a group which according to him experience high levels of discrimination in America.” She was told to “take that line out completely.” She did not.
She then met with Asmerom who said “those lines do not fall within the DISD valedictorian speech guideline, which neither I nor any other student have access to.” She said Asmerom suggested she “‘…say to all the children who became victims of injustice so it encompasses a lot more.'” She said Asmerom told her she would “be sending the wrong message to the graduating students, that message being ‘you will get shot if you were black in America …”
On the day of her graduation, she made a choice.
“Do I read the censored speech in the binder or speak the words I had originally written? I knew none of the consequences I could possibly face came even slightly close to what the families of the victims have to live with on a daily basis. I chose to read my original speech, and the mic was cut off as soon as I mentioned Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice and in the video you can see the principal signaling for my mike to be turned off. I knew the risk I was taking but never expected to be silenced.”
3. The Part of Her Speech That Was Cut Off is a Powerful Apology & Promise to Students Who Never Had a Chance
Hagharmehdiabadi posted on Twitter that part of her speech that was silenced. Her powerful closing.
“And while we are receiving our diplomas tonight and moving on to bigger things, they were students who were robbed of this opportunity.
To all the kids who got left behind because their education educational needs cannot be met,
To the students that had to drop out to work and help their families financially,
To the Baha’i youth of Iran who are denied access to her education by the government some serving time in prison for wanting to teach,
To the kids that were murdered in senseless mass shootings,
To Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and all the other children who became victims of injustice,
To the kids across the globe affected by war, famine, persecution, and child labor who have lost years of education due to hunger displacement lack of finances and lack of educational resources,
You see tonight is a celebration of our achievements, yes, but it is also a reminder of all the work that needs to be done. And as much as I hate to say this, “Class of 2019, we just might be the future.” So no matter which path you take in life, where you end up in the next decade, remember you have an obligation to community, and the world at large.”
4. Hagharmehdiabadi, an Iranian Refugee & Youth Activist Headed to the University of Texas in the Fall, Asked People to Consider Donating to Help Causes in Which She Believes
“As an Iranian refugee, police brutality is not my narrative to shape. though i appreciate your nice comments, there are activists who have been doing the work and raising awareness about this issue for years. listen to them. support them…”
She was recently profiled in a Take Action Challenge where she worked to raise funds for a Kenyan school scholarship program. She also had an idea to “create an after school program for my friends and the goal of the club was to serve as a safe space for them to share whatever is on their mind and topics relevant to young women …”
5. Asmerom, an Award-Winning Educator Who Earned a Master’s From Southern Methodist University, is Originally From East Africa
Originally from Eritrea, in East Africa, Asmerom was awarded a grant form the Teaching Trust, part of the Community Foundation of Texas‘ community impact grant programs for educators.
Asmeron was awarded through the CFT Aspiring Principals program and Southern Methodist University Simmons School of Education and Human Development. He wrote that being part of the program “helped me see both my strengths and identify areas of growth.”
“I am looking forward to tackling the challenges and opportunities of public education in Dallas. Education, especially in an urban setting, is the most effective tool to change a child’s life trajectory if we implement it right and with absolute dedication. Knowing this, as an educator my goal is to give every child an opportunity to define his or her role in life by exposing them to a quality education and a serving educator.”
Asmeron earned his education degrees from SMU including a master’s of education in Policy Development and Education Leadership.