Senatobia High School in northwest Mississippi held its graduation ceremony on May 21, and like all families the Millers and Walkers were proud to witness their loved ones succeeding and moving on to the next chapters in their lives. Anyone who has ever attended a graduation ceremony knows these events are filled with friends and family members overcome with joy and enthusiasm as they have come to see their loved ones take the stage in recognition of their great accomplishment. However, school superintendent Jay Foster is a man who not only seeks to impose order, but wishes to impose a strict “no noise” policy on these graduation ceremonies. To achieve this, Foster not only issued an order for campus police to remove anyone who so much as “cheered during the ceremony”, but followed it up by ensuring that any so-called “disturbances” would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In Jay Foster’s words, “I want them to know there are consequences for their behavior”.
So it was that Ursula Miller was removed from the graduation ceremony after calling out the name of her niece, Lakaydra, in a moment of excitement as she was walking across the stage to receive her diploma. The same thing occurred to Henry Walker for simply shouting out, “You did it baby!” when it was his relative’s turn to take the stage. Miller, Walker and two unnamed others were taken outside by campus police who took down their information and provided it to the superintendent. Superintendent Foster then decided to take matters a step further by pressing charges against all of them for allegedly “disturbing the peace”, a charge that potentially carries a fine of $500 or even a period of half of a year behind bars! Henry Walker shared his sentiments in a statement to a local news outlet, “It’s crazy. The fact that I might have to bond out of jail, pay court costs, or a $500 fine for expressing my love, it’s ridiculous”.
Unfortunately this seems to be yet one more case of the additional, oftentimes hidden cost of being Black in America. Looking at cases such as these, it’s little wonder why in deep South states like Mississippi, and especially in neighboring Louisiana, the incarceration rates are so immense that they dwarf those of all other states and countries in the world.
*There is currently an online petition that will be delivered to the superintendent titled “Don’t arrest these families for cheering at HS graduation!”