SECTIONS
photos of Jamaija at high school and college graduations
Reporting Fellow Jamaija Rhoades at her graduations from Richmond Community High School (left) and Hampton University (right). Images courtesy of Jamaija Rhoades. United States, 2017/2021.

Within the last year, using my skills as a journalist to highlight Richmond, my hometown, has become of extreme importance me. For my senior capstone project, I created a magazine entitled Noir Richmond, not only to celebrate but also to humanize a community of people who are often dehumanized. When it came to submitting a story idea to the Pulitzer Center, I knew I had to shed light on an issue within my city.

I stumbled across the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium's study that indicated that Black students in Richmond Public Schools (RPS) are suspended four times more than white students. Reading this statistic reminded me of my time in RPS and constantly hearing adults mention how "horrible" the school district was and how bad/ghetto the kids were. As a student who was always at the top of my class and who knew many other great students, I never could understand why we were seen as such problem children. This survey along with the Instagram page "Black @ RPS" indicated to me that I needed to bring awareness to the racial disparities and stereotyping that minorities within this district experience.

Not only is this treatment unfair to these students, but it also persuades them to develop the mindset that they are the problem, and that they deserve to be treated unfairly. My desire is to bring awareness to these issues so that a pathway to change will someday be created for students who look like me and who are treated differently because of who they are.