#BlackLivesMatter Means Having To Pay Attention To Taylor Bell
Black Lives Matters Demonstrations took place at the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Protesters aimed to raise awareness of Jamar Clark, a black man fatally shot by police, but we want you to pay attention to Taylor Bell. Footage from the protests in Minneapolis:
#BlackLivesMatter aims to build connections between black people and their allies to fight anti-Black racism, spark dialogue on the racism affecting black people, and facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement. This means recognizing, understanding and being motivated to do something about Taylor Bell.
In 2011, Taylor Bell, was an 18-year-old senior at Itawamba High in Fulton, Mississippi with a near spotless disciplinary record through his first three and a half years of high school reciving only a single in-school suspension for “tardiness.” When school closed for winter break, he composed, recorded, and posted to Facebook and YouTube a rap song accusing two male teachers/coaches of sexually harassing and assaulting female students.
Four female students submitted sworn affidavits that these accusations were 100% true. The school did not deny the accusations (and still hasn’t denied them), but nonetheless suspended Taylor and forced him to attend the county’s “alternative school” for the rest of the nine-week term. The school’s Disciplinary Committee literally told Taylor to “censor” all the “bad words” in his rap.
The technical question presented, on which six circuits are split, is whether the Tinker standard, which gives schools broad power to censor students’ speech in school, applies to students’ off-campus speech like Taylor’s song.
The federal district court in Mississippi rejected Taylor’s First Amendment claim. A divided Fifth Circuit panel reversed and ruled in Taylor’s favor. But the en banc Fifth Circuit, in a sharply divided decision with 8 opinions including 4 separate dissents, flipped the panel and affirmed the district court’s ruling against Taylor. The Supreme Court is now being asked to hear the case.
This story is about freedom of artistic expression for rap music artists. It’s about disproportionate school discipline of African American students. It’s about caring when adults sexually harass and assault Black girls – and actually doing something about it.
What can you do? Share this hashtag. Upload the video with #pskdatruth. Facebook, tweet, instagram, snapchat how grateful you are to use your voice for good with the hashtag and video. with the hashtag and video. Show the world that T-Bizzle’s voice should not be silenced with the video and hashtag. Announce how @T-Bizzle is being punished for speaking truth against sex abuse in our schools with the video and hashtag. @TIP, @BigBoi and @KillerMike, already agree hip hop should receive first amendment protections. Raise your voice for @T-Bizzle. Upload his video, share #pskdatruth, and show that art can’t be silenced.
No student should ever be punished at school for reporting sexual misconduct by teachers. No student should ever be punished at school for making art including hip hop. Finally, imagine a white male student getting kicked out of high school for writing and recording a country music song seriously accusing black teachers of sexually abusing white girls at school. Would that ever happen? #pskdatruth