***This story has been updated to include an interview with MHS senior Shakayla Baxter.
After disappearing earlier this month, the Black Lives Matter banner was back at Marblehead High School on Monday, Oct. 23, hanging in the cafeteria.
“I was astonished that someone would even take the BLM flag down,” said Shakayla Baxter, a student of color at MHS. “Doing it on purpose or not, it’s still upsetting. As a student of color at Marblehead High, seeing that flag up makes me feel like there is at least one person in the school that cares about students that look like me. It makes students of color feel seen in a town that’s predominantly Caucasian.”
Baxter said there was no communication from school leaders about the flag. It’s not clear who removed it and whether the flag hanging now is the same one, or a new one. Acting Superintendent Michelle Cresta and MHS Principal Michele Carlson did not return requests for comment on Oct. 23
“Now that it’s back up I just wonder why it was taken down in the first place,” Baxter asked. “Was someone held accountable for it?”
After the banner disappeared, Cresta told the Current, “We are having on-going discussions regarding the flag.”
The Marblehead Racial Justice Team offered to pay to replace the BLM banner but was not contacted.
“We applaud it going back up and applaud the administration for the right move,” said Rev. Jim Bixby of the Clifton Lutheran Church, who also sits on the MRJT.
“I do want to put a caveat in there about the fact that the damage has been done,” he added. “It’s fair if people feel on edge about something like this happening. We need to do more to reassure people that their rights are secure — that they matter.”
In the spring of 2021, a local woman started a petition to remove the flag, saying that BLM supports Palestinians and Hamas.
Some BLM activists — unaffiliated with the national group — have shown support for the Palestinian cause and even Hamas in the past. The Anti-Defamation League points out on its website, “It is important to note that Black Lives Matter chapters are run independently from the national Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, and many are completely unaffiliated. The Black Lives Matter national organization has not yet commented on the current Israel-Hamas war.”
When the flag disappeared, Bixby said, “We are aware that there was conversation before about how the flag could be interpreted. We don’t believe in any way that it can or should be construed to represent antisemitism.”
A local rabbi, social justice activists and then-superintendent John Buckey said the banner should stay.
Bixby emphasized that the BLM banner “is what it says, that Black lives matter. That message should remain.”