NY School Denies First Black Valedictorian Grad Speech, City Hall Steps In

"I forgive you for everything I held against you"

What to Know

  • Jaisaan Lovett, the first black valedictorian at an upstate New York high school, was banned from delivering his graduation speech
  • Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who Lovett had interned for, stepped in
  • Lovett was able to deliver his emotional graduation speech at Rochester City Hall, with the speech uploaded to YouTube by the city

The first black valedictorian at a New York high school has delivered his graduation speech at Rochester City Hall after saying he was banned from addressing his classmates at graduation last month.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported Wednesday that Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren invited Jaisaan Lovett to speak after he was denied an opportunity to address his classmates.

Lovett told the newspaper he believes he was denied the chance to speak due to personal animosity from the school's leader Joseph Munno. In his emotional speech, which was posted to YouTube by the City of Rochester Mayor's Office, Lovett says the graduation address was about more than just him.

"To Mr. Munno, my principal, there's a whole lot of things I've wanted to say to you for a long time. ... 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," he says.

"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. And I forgive you for everything I held against you."

Lovett is the first black valedictorian to graduate from the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men.He received a full scholarship to attend Clark Atlanta University in the fall. He’d previously interned in Warren’s office.

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The school’s board of trustees says it’s reviewing what happened. School leader Joseph Munno has not yet responded to NBC 4's request for comment.

Lovett says he’s previously clashed with Munno, including once after protesting safety conditions in the school’s lab.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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