FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Shanell Clark is 15 years old and a freshman at Homestead High School in Southwest Allen County Schools. She wants to be a surgeon some day. She also made the social media post that inspired a protest at the school to bring to light what students call ongoing racial tensions.
“I feel like it’s going to continue until something is done about it because if we let it happen and sweep it under the rug, it’s going to be the same as it was before,” Clark said.
Clark’s Instagram post was of a picture of another Homestead student in blackface. She said she first tried to express her concern about the photo to the school.
“Me and my mom went to the school and they told us they couldn’t do anything about [the photo] because it was outside of school, so I took it upon myself to let people know what’s going on at Homestead and how they treat us,” Clark said.
In a statement Thursday, in reference to the student in blackface, the district said they are “working to take appropriate next steps,” but didn’t elaborate on what that means.
Clark’s Instagram post was the tipping point and Thursday morning, Homestead students protested what they say is a long history of racial tensions and complaints falling on deaf ears.
“It’s uncomfortable. People just stare. They stare and make you feel uncomfortable about how you look and what’s your skin color,” Clark said.
She said she’s expressed her concerns to teachers and staff, but nothing was ever done.
Now, Clark hopes real change will happen.
“It’s going to continue until something is done about it because if they brush it under the rug then nothing will change,” she said.
“I hope that they include us. That we feel unincluded. Make us feel wanted,” she said.
The outrage at Homestead inspired a protest at Northrop High School in Fort Wayne Community Schools on Friday.
“I feel good about it because now they feel like they can stand up for themselves too,” Clark said.
What started as an Instagram post, is growing into a movement that has the attention of school districts, the media and the community.
“People are like I’m so proud of you. Thank you for standing up for us. It took a lot of courage,” Clark said. “Some people are saying they wouldn’t have done it and they were too scared of how people would look at them.”
Clark added that she doesn’t want the focus to be on the student who wore blackface, but instead on changing the culture in the schools.