In the summer of 2020, after the killing of George Floyd and the upheaval that followed, Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE) was formed by a multiethnic group of Roosevelt High School alumni to discuss racism in America and in Seattle. We realized anew that, while some progress had been made since our own tumultuous times in high school, there is still a long and challenging road ahead to achieving racial equity. This became the main topic of our discussions, and we found it inspiring and strengthening to reconnect with each other across the decades since high school as well as across our differences in ethnicity and experiences. Conversations were enlightening, honest and accepting. We explored what impact the Seattle Busing Voluntary Racial Transfer Program (VRT) of the late 1960s and early 1970s had on all of us. We shared our personal experiences with racism over the past fifty years.
As our Zoom gatherings progressed, the group expanded and formalized itself as Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE), inclusive of all RHS alumni of all years and the current RHS community of students, staff, and parents. We began with two specific projects. The first is an annual scholarship to honor our late classmate James A. Davis, Jr., an alumnus of the VRT program, a great friend, and an athlete-musician at Roosevelt. The scholarships will be awarded yearly to two economically disadvantaged Roosevelt students of color to pursue higher education or training, beginning Spring 2021.
RARE is also producing a documentary, Roosevelt High School in Black and White, about the students of color who came to Roosevelt through the VRT program and later through mandatory busing. The film will explore the impacts these programs have had on students, staff, the Roosevelt community, and on the goals of integrated education. It will include interviews with alumni who transferred to Roosevelt through voluntary or mandatory busing programs, and with alumni who lived in the Roosevelt neighborhoods, as well as with teachers, administrators and coaches from those times and from today. The film will illuminate contrasts and similarities between past challenges and those faced today. The documentary will be offered as a teaching tool for current and future students at Roosevelt, and throughout the Seattle School District, to share the rich history of the city’s efforts to achieve better racial balance in the schools and to share current issues and concerns.
Both the scholarship program and the film have the support of the current Roosevelt High School administration and the Roosevelt Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization that helps to fund the school’s goals and activities. Golden Grads, a non-profit entity established by Roosevelt alumni to manage scholarships for current Roosevelt students, serves as RARE’s partner and fiscal agent for the James A Davis Junior Memorial Scholarship.
Meanwhile, RARE is continuing and expanding its discussions about race and racism, with expert presenters from inside and outside RARE, and is inviting a broader range of alumni and other supporters to join these discussions. RARE exists as a platform for all interested students, alumni, staff and the entire school community to engage in honest discussion and action aimed at ensuring racial equity in education and in our society at large.
WHY RARE EXISTS
We exist because we believe that the commonality, as well as the diversity, of our experiences and ethnicities, combined with our commitment to racial equity, put us in a unique position to address issues of systemic and institutional racism.
VALUES AND PRINCIPLES
- Racial equity: a culture of care and respect for the dignity of every person.
- Education and open communication: the key processes of change and empowerment.
- Truthfulness and honesty: the values that underly all our communication and dealings
- Humility: a willingness to recognize the racism in ourselves.
- Inclusion, collaboration, connection and appreciation: our attitude when listening and engaging the diverse voices in our community.
- Curiosity: a willingness to constantly learn more about systemic and less visible systems that place barriers to racial equity, and the challenges that we face in overcoming them.
- Passion: in pursuit of justice, fairness and equity.
- Creativity: tested and supported by research, critical thinking and analysis, in the search for solutions that work.
- Wisdom: a willingness to admit when we are wrong, and the courage to change our views.
- Accountability: a promise that we will follow through on our commitments
We agree with James Baldwin that “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” (1962) We are attempting to change the things we cannot accept.
Racial equity throughout our community, our city, and our country. Every person is accorded dignity, respect, and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
To advocate for racial equity by contributing to a deeper understanding of racism and racial equity, to heal the racial divide, and to enhance equitable outcomes for all people.
RARE Steering Committee
Joe Hunter, Co-leader
Tony Allison, Co-leader
Kristi Gates Blake
Jane Harris Nellams
Robin Balee Ogburn
Lynn Hayes Thomas