Op/Ed: Black dancer was blocked from competing because of her skin color

There is no such thing as being “too dark” to dance.

But the dance coach and choreographer at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Oakland Park, Kansas seem to believe so. According to the civil complaint filed by high school student and dancer Camille Sturdivant, her dance team coach, Carly Fine, and dance team choreographer, Kevin Murakami, excluded her from performing. They told Camille that her “skin clashed with the color of the uniforms” and that her “Black skin would cause the audience to look at [her] and not the other dancers.1 2

Camille deserves better. Demand a full investigation into the school’s lackluster response to this blatant discrimination.

As if that were not enough, Camille noted in her complaint that along with her dance team coach and choreographer, other teachers in the district and parents of other dance team students reinforced her exclusion by allowing  Fine to continue to coach the team, even after she was fired for the racist texts she sent about Camille.3

When Camille’s parents met with the principal of the school, Amy Pressly, to inform her of the coach’s actions, they were met with an unacceptable response: that Coach Fine “had the authority to pick whomever she wanted for the dance routines.”4

With such a lukewarm response to blatant racism, we know Principal Pressly’s actions were not enough.

Join us in calling on the Blue Valley Schools’ Board of Education to hire an independent investigator to fully uncover the racism Camille faced.

School is supposed to be a safe haven for students. Students should be able to learn and grow, free from bigotry and racist judgements. Camille was denied this experience. She was forced to deal with flagrant, racist comments during what was supposed to be a fun extracurricular activity.5 This is absolutely unacceptable, and we must demand real accountability for the dance coach, the choreographer, and the principal who allowed these problems to continue. Black girls like Camille will continue to face racist abuse until those in power are held responsible for their actions. By demanding that the Board of Education hire an independent investigator to thoroughly investigate Camille’s complaints, we can show the Blue Valley Unified School District, as well as school districts across the country, that racism towards Black students should never be tolerated.

Tell the Blue Valley Schools’ Board of Education to hire an independent investigator.  

Until justice is real,

—Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Jade, Evan, Johnny, Future, Corina, Chad, Mary, Saréya, Angela, Eesha, Samantha, and the rest of the Color Of Change team

References:

  1. “Black student told her skin was ‘too dark’ sues Blue Valley for race discrimination,” The Kansas City Star, 24 January 2019, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/120699?t=11&akid=23119%2E3506444%2E3kRLdR
  2. “‘She’s black. I hate that:’ Dance coach told student her skin was ‘too dark,’ suit claims,” The Root, 17 January 2019,  https://act.colorofchange.org/go/120700?t=13&akid=23119%2E3506444%2E3kRLdR
  3. “Black high school student dancer told her skin was too dark to perform: Lawsuit,” Huffington Post, 22 January 2019, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/120701?t=15&akid=23119%2E3506444%2E3kRLdR
  4. “‘She’s black. I hate that:’ Dance coach told student her skin was ‘too dark,’ suit claims,” The Root, 17 January 2019,  https://act.colorofchange.org/go/120700?t=17&akid=23119%2E3506444%2E3kRLdR
  5. Camille Sturdivant v. Blue Valley Unified School District, USD 229, Docdroid.net, 05 December 2018, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/120702?t=19&akid=23119%2E3506444%2E3kRLdR

ColorOfChange is building a movement to elevate the voices of Black folks and our allies, and win real social and political change. Help keep our movement strong.

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