St. Andrew Nativity School students hold signs during a demonstration June 21 calling for racial equality and human dignity. (Courtesy St. Andrew Nativity School)
St. Andrew Nativity School students hold signs during a demonstration June 21 calling for racial equality and human dignity. (Courtesy St. Andrew Nativity School)
While many adults are uneasy with the unrest in the city and nation, one group of Portland youths came forward to say they feel the pain of generations of systematic racism, violence and hate.

Students from St. Andrew Nativity School in Northeast Portland — a tuition-free Catholic, Jesuit middle school for low-income families — organized a peaceful protest June 21 in memory of the many Black fathers who have been victims of police violence and unfair incarceration.

“Students were inspired by peaceful protests around the country and wanted to use their voices and power to join the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Jane Casey, a language arts teacher at Nativity.

The students spent weeks planning the protest, hosting several planning meetings, coming up with ways to advertise the event, including creating a flier, and ensuring everyone was safe and wearing a mask.

The march included students, families, faculty, volunteers and community members. The group of about 150 met at the school off of Alberta and Northeast Ninth Avenue on the afternoon of Father’s Day and marched to the local police precinct. There, protesters took a knee in honor of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minnesota May 25, while two students spoke.

A recent graduate who helped organize the protest led marchers in chanting George Floyd’s name. When interviewed afterward, a current eighth grader said, “We just want to be heard. People should not be killed or targeted… no matter the color of your skin, no matter what you look like, and no matter what your gender is.”