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Listen: Seattle High Schoolers Vent About Racial Issues At Open-Mic Session

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Kyle Stokes
/
KPLU
Rainier Beach High School junior Hawi Ali speaks during an open-mic session in the school's cafeteria during lunch on Friday.

Hawi Ali wonders what went on behind closed doors as a grand jury deliberated the case of a Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager last summer.

Then again, Ali suspects she doesn't have to wonder at all.

"Since it's such a repetitive pattern, I don't think it's about the discussions they have," said Ali, a junior at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School. "I really think it's blatant racism."

Ali was one of a parade of students who spoke during an open-mic session in the school's cafeteria last Friday afternoon. As their peers filed through the lunch line, others grabbed the microphone, encouraged by student organizers to share poems and speeches inspired by recent protests against police tactics in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Take 90 seconds to listen to what they had to say — this audio clip includes snippets from students' speeches and from interviews with them after they dropped the mic:

Ferguson has been a hot topic of conversation at Rainier Beach, and not only because the school is home to more students of color than any other Seattle high school. Earlier this school year, staff set aside time for school-wide discussions of last summer's protests.

Rainier Beach students hold monthly open-mic sessions at lunch, but students and staff organized Friday's "My Life Matters" session with recent events in New York and Missouri in mind.

More than half of the school's students are black. Nearly one-third are Asians or Pacific Islanders. Latinos comprise roughly 12 percent of the student population. Only 2 percent of Rainier Beach students are white.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.
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