FORT LAUDERDALE — The Broward County Commission this week honored a teenager who took a stand against a hate symbol at her school.
County Commissioners on Tuesday, June 9 presented a proclamation to Moremi Akinde, 16, of Pembroke Pines, honoring her for speaking out against a noose that other students hung at a school lunch table near her and her friends last year.
The proclamation ceremony took place in the Broward County Commission chambers in downtown Fort Lauderdale. County Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin presented the proclamation to Akinde.
The Feb. 14, 2008 incident at Somerset Academy, a charter school in Pembroke Pines, attracted widespread attention after Akinde took a stand against it, including from the Florida NAACP, the
Anti-Defamation League, the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Anti-bias and diversity education workshops took place at the school as a result.
The students involved in hanging the noose, who remain unidentified, were suspended one month after the incident.
Akinde described receiving the proclamation as “an honor,” and said that “it wasn’t just me. I had a lot of help from my mom and other groups that supported me in the cause.”
Akinde also said that she has “always been one to stand up for what I believe in,” and admitted that she has “never gone as far as this to really voice my opinion; to make something out of it.”
The incident, Akinde said, has made her want to become more involved in the community.
“I’m not sure about right now about how I’ll do it, but it’s something that will happen,” she said.
Akinde will attend Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts in the fall.
The noose, widely regarded as a symbol of hate, is a reminder to many African Americans of racially motivated lynchings in the old South.
The proclamation came one day before a white supremacist allegedly shot and killed a black security guard who was defending employees and patrons of the United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum in Washington, D.C.
Marcie Shaughnessy, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) education director for the Florida region, said the ADL provided three full days of diversity education training to Somerset’s faculty in August 2008.
She said she is “so proud of Moremi Akinde for her strength and courage to stand up against hate. It’s very easy to be a bystander and let things pass by without saying anything.’’
Shaughnessy continued, “It took guts to speak up and say ‘That’s not OK.’ Moremi exemplifies a young leader who took action instead of walking away.”
She added that Akinde is “truly deserving of this recognition,’’ adding that she “hopes others will be inspired by Moremi and take a stand against hate when they see or hear it.”
Ryan Breitenbach, a legal consultant for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, said he could not comment, adding that governing statutes restrict the department’s ability to discuss all cases and conciliation services.
Adeyela Bennett, Akinde’s mother, said she is “proud that my daughter had the courage to stand up to her classmates, teachers and administrative staff, who opposed her when she tried to explain that hanging a noose wasn’t funny.”
Initially, Bennett said, Akinde was angry and hurt, “but she used the incident as an opportunity to educate.”
Editor’s Note: Moremi Akinde is the stepdaughter of South Florida Times Executive Editor Bradley C. Bennett.
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Broward County Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin, left, presents a proclamation to Moremi Akinde, right.