B y Derek Liebig
When Kendall Jeter speaks of tolerance and understanding, it’s a good idea to listen.
Jeter, who has served as president and first vice president of the Glens Falls chapter of the NCAAP and is a co-founder of the non-violence group Northern NY Call 2 Men, spoke to students at Whitehall High School on Thursday, April 14 about the importance of tolerance.
Principal Kelly McHugh thought Jeter would be the perfect speaker because he has spoke with members of Railroaders Against Violence Everywhere (RAVE.) so the kids were familiar with him.
“He has actually helped me quite a bit in the past when I’ve dealt with racism issues and I didn’t know where to go or how to handle it,” she said.
Jeter delivered two presentations, one to junior high students and the other to high school students.
He began each presentation by telling the students a little about himself. He relayed his experience of growing up in the culturally diverse, but violent community of Capital Heights in Brooklyn
He also discussed his time as a student volunteer for the Plattsburgh Crisis Center where he provided console to suicidal students.
After telling the students a little about himself, they had the chance to ask him questions, with one caveat, they would have to answer his questions.
He asked how many students had heard someone make a racial slur. Most had.
He also asked how many had been targets of slurs. A sizable minority raised their hands.
“I think we all have some sort of connection to oppression,” Jeter told students. “When you allow racial slurs to happen, you allow them by extension, to happen to yourself. If you allow violence, it will eventually happen to yourself.”
The message was clear; tolerance isn’t simply about treating others with respect, but stopping people from treating others with disrespect.
Central to his message was the role family and community can play in creating greater tolerance. He encouraged students to ask their parents and grandparents about their family history.
“The more you know about your past, the stronger you community becomes,” Jeter said. “Speaking with your parents about history creates communication.”
“The only way to overcome violence, and become more tolerant, is through communication.”
Jeter’s presentation was part of the fifth annual Non-Violence Week at the high school and part of a continuing effort by student led organizations RAVE., S.W.A.T. and Natural Help to combat issues of racism and bigotry. The school has invited other speakers to address students in the past, including other NCAAP members.
Lee Foster, the husband of school employee Amy Wise-Foster, has spoke with students in the past and was well received.
The goal of Non-Violence week is to teach students tolerance and respect. This year’s theme was “Try to be the Change.”
Throughout the week, RAVE. had booths set up during lunch periods where fellow students could learn more about tolerance and what the group does.
On Friday, some students participated in a national student led day of silence sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
Student Jakob Neddo said a group of students choose to stay silent to echo the effects of prejudice and bigotry.
“The day is intended to lesson, or slow the effects of harassment,” Neddo said.
Principal McHugh said they want students to know there is help.
“I want all our kids to know if they have conflicts, they shouldn’t handle it themselves, we have people who can help. Our focus is on respect.”