Principal refuses first black Rochester valedictorian to give speech

Jaisaan Lovett graduated last month without giving his speech he prepared as his high school’s first black valedictorian. The mayor of Rochester, New York stepped up to help this young man and she is Mayor Lovely Warren.

She gave him a platform because she stated she “wanted to hear what he had to say.”

Lovett, a new graduate of Rochester’s University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men, was planning on encouraging his classmates and thanking his parents, siblings and teachers, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. He mention that he had some past run-ins with the principal over student tests.

Lovett said no one asked him to give a graduation speech, even though past valedictorians had the opportunity to do it, according to the newspaper. He also said the principal Joseph Munno said no, when he was asked to speak anyway.

Munno decline to comment.

That’s when Mayor Warren stepped in and invited the young man who happens to be in an intern in her office to make the speech at City Hall. It is also posted on her YouTube channel and on Facebook.


“Unfortunately, Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech,” Warren said in the video. “For some reason, his school – in a country where freedom of speech is a constitution right, and the city of Frederick Douglass – turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.

“Jaisaan will never graduate from high school again. He will never get that moment back. This is not the time to punish a child because you may not like what he has to say,” says Mayor Warren.

Lovett had words and a message for his principal, too.

“I’m here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. I’m still here, and I’m still here strong,” Lovett said in the video. “And after all these years, all this anger I’ve had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself.”

The school’s board of trustees responded to the controversy in a Facebook post, saying they’re “aware of the concern” and will be “reviewing the circumstances regarding what happened.” They wished Lovett “much success as he continues his education at Clark Atlanta University, which he will attend on full scholarship, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.