FILM: No Title for Tracey

CNN reports: “A 55-year-old woman has been honored 38 years after her Illinois high school failed to make her its first Black valedictorian.”

Tracey Meares was awarded the title on April 16 by the superintendent of Springfield Public Schools District 186 after a screening of the documentary “No Title for Tracey,” which recounts her story.

Black woman named valedictorian nearly 40 years after her high school graduation, CNN

Incidentally, the exact same scenario played out at my high school in 1991. It was the semester before I commenced my odyssey to be part of the Seven Year Club at Trinity Prep. A Muslim student had achieved the highest GPA, but the school would not give him the valedictorian honors. Lawyers were involved, because the school churns out lawyers. I don’t know the precise details as I was in fifth grade. In the end, the school awarded the valedictorian honors to not one, not two, not three, not four, but five students. In other words, five students were honored as valedictorians, because one Muslim student could not have the sole honors. Those were the lessons my 12 year old self learned of race, power, and class from Winter Park.

Trinity Prep

It was less of a high school and more of a country club. Olympic size swimming pool. Immigrant parents succumbed to diasporic guilt and sent their kids there in an attempt to better educate their children, which, by and large, happens as a product of elitism and concentrated capital resources submissive to a donor class. At the end of the day, excellence rules, equity drools.

Meares, a popular cheerleader in high school, said at the time she felt “upset and angry,” and believes she was passed over for the title valedictorian because she’s Black. All these years later, it’s still painful, she said.

“The world that I live in, I’m powerful. I’m confident. Not vulnerable,” she told CNN, referring to her success as a professor at Yale Law School, where she was the first Black woman granted tenure.

“The resonance that the film has had with so many people is also incredibly powerful,” Meares said. “The ways structural racism and race discrimination can work are not the kinds of ways that people understand, right? It’s not always really obvious. But it’s still deep.”

Black woman named valedictorian nearly 40 years after her high school graduation, CNN

I complain and hate on Winter Park quite a bit, but I have two offspring, who are, “Born in Winter Park.” The hospital was smaller. My OB doctor only delivered babies there. She was the same OB doctor for two of my siblings. In the end, we go with old and familiar, even if we remained displaced and diasporic within it.

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Nadia Ahmad

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