Shannon Watson took a knee.

Just like Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback.

But Watson took a knee at a school board meeting, specifically, the District 65 board meeting on Monday night.

Watson was among two dozen parents and students who strongly, forcefully, and angrily spoke out against the noose incident near Haven and Kingsley schools earlier this month.

The speakers, Watson included, were not blaming the board. Quite the contrary.

Most praised efforts by the board and by Superintendent Devon Horton to address what was described as long-standing racism in Evanston.

The discovery of three nooses hanging between Haven and Kingsley, the speakers stated, just brought ugliness to the surface.

“I have a black boy sitting at the back of this room,” said Watson, describing her Haven Middle School son. “And he is numb,” she added.

“It’s trauma that’s been inflicted on our community,” she said.

Her son plays sports, Watson explained. And if someone is hurt in sports, or if something is not right, Watson explained, the players take a knee. So she did.

“All I ask is that we protect our children,” she stated.

Some speakers called for more public information about the noose investigation. Superintendent Horton said both the district and the police have been actively looking into the case, but could not say more right now.

“But we’re not sitting back,” Horton added. “It will be addressed.”

While many rumors are swirling through the community, police have not identified any suspects. They have also it’s possible that the noose incident was not related to a student sit-in protest that same day. Those students were objecting to the transfer of some favorite teachers.

This school board meeting was very different than one last month, when a different packed room of 100-plus strongly criticized the board and administration.

That April meeting saw sign-carrying teachers and parents say that the district was not doing enough to deal with student discipline problems, including fights, and also said that teachers were not getting the support they need.

Board member Anya Tanyavutti said that meeting “felt like a lynch mob.”

And member Marquise Weatherspoon said that when African-American residents voice their concerns, “we get accused of being angry Black people, when in fact we’re really loving parents.”

Half a dozen members the Chicago group Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change, men who have served time in prison but are now mentoring young people on how to avoid trouble, were at the meeting.

One urged parents to “link your child to positive values.”

ECCSC member addresses D65 Board.

Regarding Evanston’s racial issues, he added “we [ECCSC] act more civilly than a community that claims to be one of the best in the country.”

Several speakers were students, either at Haven now, or graduates of the middle school.

One called the noose “a direct threat to Black students.”

Another called Evanston “an incubator of white privilege and white superiority.”

The Rev. Michael Nabors, head of the local NAACP chapter, called the noose incident “a painfully crushing blow to Black people.”

The Rev, Michael Nabors, NAACP chapter president, addresses Districtr 65 Board.

But Nabors also said “we will not stand idly by when racism raises its ugly head. We will root out every vestige of racism in this community.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. I am heartened to learn that the Board and Administration were publicly supported this time around. April’s meeting was painful to watch. I hope the entitled people who have been criticizing and spewing hate will wake up and start behaving like the progressives they think they are. We finally have an Administration and Board who are willing to do the hard things that are necessary instead of talking a good game but doing nothing to move the needle. They deserve our respect.

  2. “Spewing hate”? Those people (including many teachers, mind you) were voicing concerns at a public meeting. Why are you spreading false information?

    The noose incident needs to be solved and those individual(s) held to the highest account. But please stop labeling an entire community of people with these broad strokes and innuendo. It doesn’t actually help.

    “Moving the needle”? Have you seen the data? The needle has moved, but in the wrong direction. The reason the board and super are getting so much heat is simple. Their objective performance measures are underperforming. The kids most disadvantaged have been held back by the policies this board and super put in place. You know yard signs and Facebook posts aren’t important, right? Results are what matters. And the data on results is not good.

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