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Crosscurrents logo 2021

African American honor roll student says when teachers set the bar high, ‘you gotta go get it'

This is part of an ongoing series “Learning while black: The fight for equity in San Francisco schools.”

San Francisco Unified School District’s African American educators have been honoring the achievements of black students who earn a 3.0 grade point average or above for a quarter of a century. This year’s emcees say the event celebrates an often-ignored narrative of excellence.

The annual African American honor roll event has taken many forms — a parade, a break from the school day with a box lunch. But for years now, it’s been held in the cavernous St. Mary’s Cathedral, where 1,500 students were honored last month.

"I've been going to this event since I was in fourth grade. I feel like in public schools we aren't really represented, and with this event, it's kind of representing us as a whole. It's embracing our culture and it's embracing our beauty." - Kamiah Brown, 17

This year’s emcees, San Francisco Unified high school seniors Kamiah Brown and Benjamin Bennett, reflect on their inspiration, struggles, goals and the importance of an event that celebrates black culture and achievement. 

"It's all about empowerment. If you tell them they can do something they will be able to do it, and I feel like this ceremony does a very good job of that. It's a celebration of the youth's hard work." - Benjamin Bennett, 17

The honor roll event is organized and presented by the San Francisco Alliance of Black School Educators. Those singers you hear are students with the nonprofit Project Level