Two Boston Latin students made headlines last year after releasing a YouTube video that exposed the school for mishandling complaints of racism.
Now, those two students, Meggie Noel and Kylie Webster-Cazeau, have graduated BLS and are taking some time to look back on the movement they started there.
“It’s been one crazy year,” said Noel on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio today.
The two women explained that their journey began after reading racist things their classmates were writing on social media.
“We realized that a lot of students, particularly in our grade, were saying ignorant things,” said Noel.
Many of these comments were in reference to deaths of people of color at the hands of white police officers, including the fatal shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson.
Webster-Cazeau said seeing the things her classmates wrote online made her question the culture of her school.
“I wasn’t necessarily surprised that people had these thoughts, but I was surprised that people were okay with putting them out in public and putting them out on Twitter,” she said. “I was really afraid of, honestly, how I was going to focus in class, knowing this is how people really felt about students of color.”
Some students, including Noel, presented the offensive tweets to the headmaster, Lynne Mooney Teta. A year passed. No action was taken.
Webster-Cazeau said she and other students were patient for a while, given the sensitivity of topics like race. But, their patience ran out.
“It’s kind of hard to understand and really figure out what you need to do [as administrators], but it was still too long,” said Webster-Cazeau.
One day, the two students recorded a video voicing their complaints that went viral. They said they were surprised by the speed with which it circulated.
“When we first made the video, we had absolutely no idea what was going to happen,” said Noel. “We released it, and then everything happened and kind of blew up.”
The video was viewed 14,000 times the first day it was posted, according to the Boston Globe.
What followed was the resignation of the headmaster of Boston Latin, an investigation by Boston Public Schools, and a citywide discussion about race initiated by Mayor Marty Walsh.
They caused the city to reconsider its identity as a beacon of progressive thought.
For Noel and Webster-Cazeau, the conversation they started isn’t done, though their peers at BLS say things have improved.
“I think our only regret is not doing it sooner,” said Noel.
Meggie Noel and Kylie-Webster-Cazeau were named the Bostonians of the Year by the Boston Globe for bringing awareness to the racial climate at Boston Latin. Meggie Noel is now at Spelman College, and Kylie Webster-Cazeau is at Temple University. To hear their interview in its entirety, click on the audio link above.