I do hope that you are well and that you are having an enjoyable start to your summer vacation. The past ten weeks have certainly been an untimely break from normalcy for you, your families, and the St. Augustine High School community. In fact, our city, nation and world have experienced great pain and heartbreak by the recent disturbing and unsettling events of the past few weeks.
Let me first express my sincere condolences to all those who have lost loved ones as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our thoughts and prayers are with the thousands of individuals, families, and friends who continue to mourn because of this deadly virus.
Let me also express, on behalf of the entire St. Augustine High School community, our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Mr. George Floyd. His death was a true tragedy that was not only inhumane, but also cruel, pointless, and disturbing. A senseless act in every imaginable way.
My message to you, our beloved students, is simple, yet direct. Discrimination in America is real. Discrimination in America is pervasive. Discrimination in America is evil. You are judged daily simply by the color of your black or brown skin. Your everyday moves and actions are evaluated and critiqued by those who choose to make rash, unfounded judgments about you, your friends, and the company you keep. The way you speak, the way you dress, and the places you visit are all part of someone’s stereotypical beliefs about you, your family, and your entire race.
The school that you love, St. Augustine High School, was founded sixty-nine years ago to be a beacon of hope for the African American community. Young black teenage boys such as you were faced with numerous obstacles and challenges, many brought on by the ills of society, to include discrimination, poverty, and racism. The Josephite priests and brothers who founded our school provided a safe and nurturing environment infused with Catholic values and Christian morals that allowed students to excel and be prepared to compete equally with their peers.
More than 9,800 of your Purple Knight alumni brothers who walked the hallowed halls of our school learned what was necessary and essential to be prepared for the discriminatory evils of society.
While the academic lessons that we offer you and your classmates are critically important to your personal development and growth, your ability to survive and thrive in today’s reality is equally dependent on your understanding that St. Augustine High School exists and remains committed to preparing you emotionally, socially, and spiritually. To ensure beyond a doubt that, with focused effort, unwavering commitment, and hard work, you have the potential to be better than anyone regardless of his or her race or social class. We are preparing you to be successful in your chosen careers and endeavors. To be able to dream your impossible dream. To climb every mountain. To ultimately enjoy a lifetime of fulfillment that will not be denied because you were not fully prepared for the moment.
I would be less than truthful if I did not tell you that I am deeply worried about each and every young black man who chooses to attend St. Augustine High School. I am worried because of George Floyd and Emmitt Till. I am worried because of Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery. When I look at these men, all brutally murdered because of the sins of racial discrimination, I see you. I know that these young men were taken away from their families too soon and without cause. And I do not want that to happen to you, my dear and precious students.
On behalf of the St. Aug community, I give you and your families my solemn assurance that we as a school will continue to be tough, yet caring on you. We will continue to insist that you do your very best academically, socially, and emotionally. And when you say to your teachers that we are being too hard, or unfair, or that we should let you do what you want to do, or that we should let you fail to reach your full potential because it is easy or cool, we will be that much more focused on insisting that you work harder, study harder, and ultimately exceed even your own personal expectations. Our combined future depends on your success, and I give you my promise that we are totally committed to not let you fail. We owe that to the memory of the thousands of African Americans throughout our nation's history who suffered from humiliating discriminatory practices.
I would venture to say that every St. Augustine High School graduate was at one time or another discriminated against by individuals and organizations that wanted to show they were better simply because of their race. I would also offer that, due to the many positive lessons, the never-ending words of encouragement, and our constant, unapologetic focus on ensuring all students were prepared for excellence, St. Augustine High School continues to prepare you for the harsh and cruel world that awaits after you depart the safe confines of our treasured institution.
High school should and must be a fun, memorable time filled with multitudes of joyous, significant occasions. I give you my personal commitment and promise that the incidents that led to the disturbing murder of Mr. George Floyd has only refocused and recommitted the entire St. Augustine community of teachers, staff, alumni, and friends to do everything in our power to ensure your total and complete success. Our school is fortunate and blessed to have the backing, support, and goodwill of many wonderful friends and supporters of all races, religions, and beliefs. Together we will not let you fail. Your future is critical to the state of our nation and together we will ensure that you are able to live in a society that respects and acknowledges your unalienable rights as educated African American men.
Kenneth St. Charles, Ph.D. '81
St. Augustine High School
President and CEO