PROSPECT HEIGHTS – “We are here today because we are tired of this conversation being one-sided. It’s always been about what the adults think the students need. But where are the students when they’re having these conversations?” asked Sokhnadiarra Ndiaye, a student from Brooklyn College Academy High School. “We have a voice, too, you know! We’re not just good for taking orders. We are constantly being left behind and ignored.
“Let me say that again, since we are usually ignored,” Ndiaye added, drawing a knowing laugh from the audience at the Brooklyn Public Library last night. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are here to press ‘unmute’ on the voices that have been silenced. To give you perspectives that you don’t usually see. To explain to you what it feels like to be a student in an education system that constantly feeds us false promises.”
Ndiaye was standing onstage in the library’s 189-seat Dweck Auditorium, looking out at a packed crowd of well over 200 students, parents, educators, concerned citizens, and elected officials. She wore a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the name “Teens Take Charge,” the student-centered advocacy group responsible for the evening. The event was called “The Ones Left Behind,” and was billed as a chance to hear “from public school students about how it feels to be left behind in the nation’s largest and most segregated school system.”
Ndiaye kicked off a tightly-orchestrated hour of student testimony from a diverse array of seventeen high school students. Their speeches and poems provided a window into the myriad manifestations of educational inequity, including the bullying experienced by Muslim students, the city’s lack of consistent special education services, and the unequal distribution of athletic opportunities across New York’s high schools…