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Being Black at Lowell High School — 50 years ago and today

Photo courtesy of Diamond Davis
Lowell High School Black Student Union members


Football players from Mission High School in San Francisco made headlines across the country when the team, as a unit, refused to stand for the national anthem, in protest against the oppression of people of color in the U.S.

It wasn’t the first demonstration by district students for that cause this year. Back in February, a student at Lowell High put up a display mocking Black History Month, and the school’s Black Student Union reacted by staging a walk-out. Black youth currently make up two percent of the student body and the struggle for inclusion persists.
That struggle goes way back at Lowell. Two of the school's alums, Pamela Stevenson and Rochelle Fortier Nwadibia, were students in the sixties when the school’s Black Student Union got its name. They shared that story with San Francisco Storycorps.

PAMELA STEVENSON: I don't know if you remember this but the teachers were in a panic. ROCHELLE FORTIER NWADIBIA: Yes, It was quite revolutionary to have all that going on at Lowell at that time. All of a sudden, even though we were the same students, we all had a new image.

Credit StoryCorps
Rochelle Fortier Nwadibia and Pamela Stevenson were friends at Lowell High School in the 1960s.

KALW's Ben Trefny played that conversation for current members of Lowell’s Black Student Union, nearly a half-century after the BSU was created, to see what they had to say.

TSIA BLACKSHER: Police brutality has been happening for generations and decades. Its just now there's social media and there's cell phones and people can record so there's actual evidence but nothing has really changed from those times to now.

Click the audio player to hear the complete story.

NOTE: KALW is an independently operated station that is owned by the San Francisco Unified School District. 

Crosscurrents Education
Ben joined KALW in 2004. As Executive News Editor and then News Director, he helped the news department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He also helped teach hundreds of audio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today.