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#TakeAKnee: Whitney Young Choir Joins Protest During Homecoming Pep Rally

By Ariel Cheung | October 2, 2017 10:09am | Updated on October 4, 2017 11:38am
 The Whitney Young choir joined in national protests by kneeling while singing the national anthem during the school's homecoming pep rally last week.
The Whitney Young choir joined in national protests by kneeling while singing the national anthem during the school's homecoming pep rally last week.
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WEST LOOP — Joining football players around the nation, the choir at Whitney Young Magnet High School knelt during its final verses of the national anthem during the school's homecoming pep rally Thursday.

The song came at the start of the pep rally, and several teachers and students at the front of the gym's bleachers knelt or raised their fists, said Camille Argentar, a senior at Whitney Young.

The choir locked arms during the entirety of the song, but it wasn't until the final verses that many members of the choir knelt, singing of the flag's waving "o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

Several in the choir did not kneel, but placed their hands on their neighbors' shoulders.

The move was met with huge applause and cheers from the stands of students.


Argentar posted the video Saturday, and by Monday, it had accumulated more than 3,000 views.

The action had been planned for several days, and administrators spoke with choir students before the pep rally in a "very thoughtful" conversation, said Whitney Young Principal Joyce Kenner.

The choir decided as a whole to link arms, but left it up to individual members on whether or not they wanted to kneel.

Kenner said she "definitely" supported the gesture.

"I told them I could not dictate to them what they should do. However, I would insist it be respectful," Kenner said Monday. "I was moved by their sensitivity for all members of the choir and their ability to decide as a group how to best deliver their message but still maintain respect for our country and flag."

Two students who led the effort said it was important to them to express their discontent with police brutality, racism and discrimination on a national level, protesting based on what former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick intended when he first sat during the national anthem in 2016.

"We're not upholding these values that we claim we should be," said senior Dixon O'Banion. "It's my way of acknowledging the fact that I'm fortunate to live in such a great society, but it's also my way of saying things aren't the way they should be."

Fellow senior Evan Wimberly said he wanted the action to spark "uncomfortable conversations" around the dinner table in the hope of addressing such issues.

"We knew we wanted to raise awareness, but also create unity," Wimberly said.

Both students are also on the school's soccer team and have been kneeling during the national anthem before their games during the fall season.

The school, at 211 S. Laflin St., recently designated the Thursday soccer game against Curie Metropolitan High School as its homecoming game after canceling the remainder of its football season due to a lack of eligible players.

RELATED: Whitney Young High School Cancels Football Season

On Wednesday, it will host what the school said is the first gubernatorial debate organized by high school students in the United States.

Across the country, dozens of NFL players knelt during games in late September after remarks from President Donald Trump suggesting any player who took a knee during the national anthem should be fired.

In the weeks after Trumps remarks, professional athletes and supporters around the country have followed suit, sharing their protests on social media with the #TakeAKnee hashtag.