Open Letter to St. Mary’s Catholic HS Admin From Alumni: We Demand You Support #BlackLivesMatter

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A old brick church building from across a creek. There is a pointy steeple.
The Campus of St. Mary's Catholic High School in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo: St. Mary's HS Facebook page.

June 18, 2020

Dear Administrative Faculty & Fr. Woods,

We are a group of 122 St. Mary’s High School alumni and parents from the classes of 1979-2016. We do not all know each other personally, we come from different backgrounds and we live in different places across the world. Today we stand together to ask the institution that brought us into the adult world to support Black Lives Matter.

St. Mary’s High School is a pillar in the Annapolis community and a key member of the collaborative group of Maryland Catholic schools. The mission and philosophy of St. Mary’s has been the foundation for the interactions between students, faculty, families, and an education that has propelled current and

former students forward in their careers, pursuit of higher education, and formation of friendships throughout the years. The school’s mission states, “the faculty and staff foster Christian attitudes founded in love of God, self and others. These attitudes include freedom, respect, conscientious responsibility, justice, and spirit of solidarity of service to the needy.”

In order to stand by this mission, we demand you to act swiftly, but thoughtfully, in examining the current culture of St. Mary’s High School and the direct relationship between its mission and the call to amplify the voices of the black community. The administration must speak out against racism (in all forms), racially motivated violence, and police brutality. It is our feeling that by disregarding the need for such a statement, St. Mary’s High School would be in direct violation of their mission so clearly stated on the school’s website and in the above quote.

The murders of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other victims of police brutality and racism bring questions into our minds. How is our school supporting black students? What resources have we offered them? How are we working with non-black students to remind them that inherent bias runs deep and that we are each responsible for unlearning racism? What are we doing to educate our students about effective allyship? How are we providing anti-racist education to our community? How will we address this with our community? These are questions that come from a place of deep care for the SMHS community.

There is a responsibility to examine the roles that bias and privilege have played within St. Mary’s walls. The changes we will need to make within our society will be lifelong. However, there are action steps that can be taken by the school immediately to address the current movement, and to begin the process of change. This would begin with a formal statement. We are disheartened there has still not been an explicit statement of support for the Black Lives Matter movement from the school.

Twenty-two of the population of the city of Annapolis is African-American. While not everyone is Catholic, we know this community is underrepresented at our school. Changes can begin during the admissions process, and we suggest a review of admissions procedures and ongoing efforts to increase accessibility and equity for all of our Catholic and non-Catholic brothers and sisters. We suggest setting up a scholarship fund for minority applicants to allow greater accessibility to the school. This fund would receive wide financial support from this group, and from other alumni. There will also be an urgent need to revamp the US History curriculum to accurately address the struggles of marginalized and oppressed groups. This would include minority speakers and educational workshops. We also suggest a review of policies associated with race-related issues in the St. Mary’s handbook.

Lastly, we strongly support unconscious bias training for faculty and staff. We entrust that the leadership team of SMHS will work collaboratively with experts in the field of equitable education and move forward with statements and policies condemning racism in its entirety. We also welcome collaboration on those statements and policies with those alumni who have written and sponsored this letter, and those not listed who hold a hunger for human rights and justice in their hearts.

There are two purposes of this letter. First, to show the overwhelming support for change. Second, to say we are here and committed to helping St. Mary’s make these changes. While we recognize that St. Mary’s has not always been the most diverse student body, every member past or present is a Saint. As Saints, we were taught to walk in the light of past holy men and women to better ourselves and the world around us.

It is now a necessity that our community step out of the darkness of silence to recognize white supremacy and begin open and thoughtful conversations within our leadership team and students.

It is not enough to just not be racist – we must actively be anti-racist. We urge you to take these words, carefully chosen, with open minds and heavy hearts in order to do right by our alma mater and those who

hold its membership. Use it to take action and create a safe, welcoming environment that offers protection for all minority students, but especially for our black community.

The Vatican has long spoken out about racial injustice, and popes dating back to Paul VI have openly supported the civil rights movement. In recent weeks, Pope Francis has mentioned George Floyd by name, denouncing the “sin of racism.” We leave you with a statement made by Pope Francis that summarizes the reason for our call to action, “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

If any of us have not previously been involved as alumni, please consider this group now involved.

Black lives matter.

Respectfully,

Aimee Buck ‘14

Alexandra “Lulu” Smith ‘16

Alexis Gramates ’11

Amanda Britt ‘11

Amanda Thompson ‘11

Amy Cecere ‘12

Anna Campbell ‘11

Annelise Buck ‘12

Annie Gorski ’15

Annie Riegert Cummings ’10

Annie Ruch ’12

Anthony Rubino ’09

Anthony Swartout ‘11

Ashley Campion ’13

Ashley Christian ‘11

Bear Hutchinson ’14

Becca Reedy ‘11

Bethany Edmondson ‘14

Brendan O’Leary ’04

Bridget Thomas ’14

Bridget Zimmerman ’09

Brittany Mosley ’09

Caitlin Hastings ’11

Caitlin Whissel ‘11

Carlisle Kaiser ‘10

Caroline Rubino ‘13

Casey Brogan ‘11

Casey Edmondson ’12

Casey Schilling ’11

Chase Gorski ‘14

Christopher Kohlhafer ‘08

Claire Andrews ’11

Clara Cecil ’14

Colleen McGee ’11

Diana Groody ‘11

Emma Moore ’16

Erin Buckingham ’11

Erin O’Leary ’10

Erin Reigert ‘10

Evan Sayyad ‘14

Frank Lozzi ’11

Gabi Lanzoni ‘14

Garret Lanzoni ‘14

George Degnon ’14

Greg Ward ‘04

Harrison Smith ’12

Henry Duden ‘10

Jasmyne Fountain ‘09

Jemina Bouma ‘10

Jenna Gilman ‘11

Jessica Cordle ‘11

Jessica Rubino ‘12

Jordan Zotto ‘14

Julian Bouma ‘07

Justin Noel ‘13

Kaitlin Stewart ‘10

Kate Hayward ‘09

Katie Mulhern ‘14

Katie Stanford ‘11

Katie Thuman ‘15

KC Beard ‘11

Keara Cleary ‘10

Kelly Brogan ‘14

Kelly McNelis ‘10

Kristen Lamon Haley ‘11

Kristine Kessler ‘08

Lauren Poole ‘10

Lisa Dammeyer ‘14

Lydia Lamartina ‘11

Lyndsey Muñoz ‘10

Madeline Selick ‘11

Maggie Baird ‘14

Maren Schwartz ‘13

Mary Cornelius ‘11

Mary Elise Cecere ‘10

Mary Mulhern ‘11

MC Sokolowski ‘10

Megan McWaters ‘13

Megan Reiter ‘11

Meghan Norwood ‘13

Meghan Toomey ‘10

Meighan Middleton ‘09

Melanie Mocniak ‘11

Meredith Gentzel ‘12

Michela Gaviorno ‘11

Michele Berry ‘11

Molly Dolan ‘16

Molly Egan ‘10

Nancy Duden ‘79

Natalie Nankervis ‘16

Nayib Kalendar ‘14

Nick Armero ‘14

Nicole Kaiser ‘14

Nicole Yapur ‘14

Olivia Portner ‘14

Paul Egloff ‘15

Paulina Grajewski ‘11

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