It was a simple message of protest, as graduate Jessey Yang remained seated during the National Anthem as Farragut High School’s Class of 2020 Commencement got under way.
Yet her right hand was held over her heart.
Among roughly 35 FHS graduates choosing to either sit or kneel in protest of racial injustice in the United States, “It’s really important to, like, show our solidarity … with the Black Lives Matter movement going on right now,” said Yang, co-salutatorian among 476 FHS graduates, after the commencement Saturday evening, June 19, at the school’s Bill Clabo Field.
“Even though we can’t exactly relate with their problems,” not being African-American, “I feel like we need to show our support.
“But at the same time I also wanted show my respect for my country, and for all the people who lost their lives fighting for this country,” this future University of Pennsylvania student added about putting her hand over her heart.
“I wanted to show support for both. … Some people think you have to be one way or another. I think we can do both.”
A’koiyea Johnson, a former FHS student/athlete (offensive lineman on the Admirals varsity football team) who is headed to Union College in Danville, Kentucky, was among those African-American graduates choosing to take a knee during the Anthem.
“I just wanted to show that I could take a stand because of everything that’s going on in the world,” he said after receiving his diploma. “It’s honestly like horrible to watch.
“This was a way to show what side I’m on. Show my voice to everybody and let them see what I’m fighting for,” Johnson added. “I’m just fighting to end racism, and any way I can do it — and that’s how I want to do it.
“I feel like that is a great way to do it — either by taking a knee or holding your fist in the air.”
It was unknown how many other graduates may have raised their fists in the air, even as they stood, to protest.
“Me, as a black person, I’m always fighting for (justice),” Johnson said. “And I know there’s a couple of my classmates who are black … and they’re all fighting for it at the same time.”