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
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.
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.
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