Student leaders at Northfield High School who organized the Sept. 20 rally against sexual harassment say they had concerns even before School Board Member Tay Anderson was censured by his fellow board members for comments “unbecoming” a board director. Maluhola Maka, junior: “I have 11 nieces and nephews to go home to—I tolerate no kind of sexualization or sexual violence towards children for that reason.” Tierra Marsha, senior: “I know other people that have been through this. So since I have this opportunity, I just took it right off the table, and I acted on it.” Sabrina Lahlali, junior: “We didn’t organize this to point a finger at an individual, we’re kind of trying to point a finger at the whole issue in itself and say that this is wrong.” But the three agreed Anderson served as the catalyst.
When these student leaders learned on Friday, Sept. 17 that schools throughout the district were planning protests on the 20th, they devoted much of that day, as well as the weekend, to planning the Northfield event in a way that would be safe and would not cause students to miss class. An extended lunch period on Monday achieved that goal. Maka, who holds the position of student wellness chair, says she thinks organizing the rally was part of her job as an advocate for student wellness. “We are looking at the big picture to make the statement that we will not tolerate any kind of sexual harassment within this school.”
On the 20th, hundreds of students chose to follow these rally leaders around the block, some waving signs. As they returned to the quad, many broke off for lunch, but a good-sized group gathered around the speakers and applauded their message. The majority were women—with a few young men sprinkled in. One young woman stood with five or six young men, some of whom she had invited to join her. She referred to them as “the people that I have known for kind of a while now. I’ve grown close with them and never felt threatened around them. It’s kind of just feeling super comfortable with them.”
Here’s what these thoughtful young men had to say: “A lot of people have been talking about it—and when Tay Anderson came up, I saw it everywhere. Then I heard about the walkout and I was like, all right, it’s an actual problem—we need to fix it. So just coming out here and supporting them really felt like it meant something.” A second young man’s thoughts: “I just wanted to walk over to see what’s happening. When I heard, I wanted to contribute and help out.” And one more: “I guess I came because it genuinely is not okay. And I do think that I feel very motivated to be here. And I do think that it is something bigger than everybody here.”
Front Porch photos by Steve Larson