‘Keep fighting’: High school students speak to frustrations of Portland’s black community

Updated: Jun. 16, 2020 at 6:14 PM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Two weeks of protest have opened a window into the frustrations of Portland’s black community, with young voices leading the charge.

On Tuesday, four current and former students of Jefferson High School sat down with FOX 12′s Simon Gutierrez and Self Enhancement Inc. President and CEO Tony Hopson, Sr. to talk about their lived experience growing up in Portland, their thoughts on the ongoing protests, and the death of George Floyd.

Nathan Rawlins Kibonge and Wendy Green are incoming seniors, and Nyla Hollis and Jaylen McDonald graduated this month.

Below are exerpts from that conversation:

Gutierrez: As a young person looking into the future, what do these protests mean to you?

Rollins Kibonge: For me it just means that, it shows that everyone’s willing to fight for something. It shows everyone’s willing to get out and just show their support. So it gives me hope for the future. That maybe we can get to a place where everybody feels as if they’re equal or that they’re part of the solution.

Hollis: What I’ve taken away from it is that we have a voice and it’s not that we’ve never been afraid to use it, but everybody is coming out and using their voice and their opinion now.

Gutierrez: Is there any one thing or one image that you’ve taken away from the last couple weeks that sticks with you?

Green: The image is just seeing everybody on the bridge. Because it just shows unity and that we’re all in this together.

Gutierrez: There’s the stereotype of the angry black woman or the angry black man. I think for years people have been told they can’t be that or they shouldn’t be that. Do you feel that’s changing?

Green: Yes. I think people are starting to embrace their anger.

Rawlins Kibonge: I think it should have always been okay to be angry because we went through so much as a people throughout all of history. Every time we’ve been enslaved, every time we’ve been pushed down, opressed. I think we’ve been angry for a while, but I feel like our anger hasn’t been noticed or hasn’t been heard.

Gutierrez: People seem to be energized.

McDonald: Yeah.

Gutierrez: You think that’s a good thing?

McDonald: Yeah, I think that’s a good thing.

Gutierrez: Can you think of a moment in your life where you realized the color of your skin had an influence or an impact on the way people treat you?

McDonald: Yeah, well, with me, I go to Jefferson High School and I play football. And our football team is predominantly black. Probably one white kid on the team. And the way that other teams and referees look at us is crazy.

Gutierrez: You feel different in that situation?

McDonald: Yeah. Yeah.

Hollis: Doing simple stuff. I was going to the corner store and having people watch us or walking in the mall with a group of friends and I remember one time this security guard automatically like started talking on his walkie talkie and all of a sudden security was following us all throughout the mall. And we said something, but it’s like, we can’t say nothing too about to get disrespectful, cause it’s going to get flipped on us or we’re going to get kicked out or something worse.

Gutierrez: Does that make you angry?

Hollis: Yes.

Gutierrez: How do you view the police department?

McDonald: I mean, it’s like all cops aren’t bad. We know that.

Gutierrez: Is there anything in particular you think needs to be different in the way people police Portland?

McDonald: I feel like everybody should look at everybody the same.

McDonald: People of color shouldn’t be looked at in a different way than everybody else.

Gutierrez: That sounds real easy, but it’s not an easy thing to do.

McDonald: Yeah.

Gutierrez: How do we get there?

McDonald: Keep fighting.

Hollis: Letting the police know that we are here. You’re gonna hear us now. And, like, stuff just needs to change.

Gutierrez: Does this feel different in any way?

Hopson: I think it feels different than some of the last murders that we’ve seen. It is different when you have folks in Australia, you have folks in China, you have folks in London who are out protesting on behalf of what happened to George Floyd. That’s new. Thats different.

Gutierrez: Did you watch the video of the George Floyd murder?

Green: Not until last week.

Gutierrez: Why did you finally decide to look at it?

Green: I kind of just didn’t want to really see it because I knew that it would hurt. Because I have cousins and my dad and my uncles, they all look like him… I finally watched it, I guess because after seeing so many clips here and there, I finally wanted to watch the full thing and just see it for myself.

Hopson: You had eight minutes and forty whatever seconds to look at it. That’s different. Some of these things happen quick and it just wasn’t quite as obvious. This one you had over eight minutes that you could just sit there and look at a man being murdered in front of you. This time there was no excuse for anybody on the planet to look at that and come up with a different conclusion. I mean, this is one of the most dehumanizing things you could ever look at. Because he didn’t have to do it. If he just brings his knee up, this man is still alive. And he chose not to do that.

Green: It was sad. I had to pause it a couple of times. But it was good to see it.

Gutierrez: Why?

Green: It was good to see it so I could fully understand what the protests were about.