More than 200 black men greeted students at Seattle’s South Shore PK-8 School to encourage the students and break down stereotypes.

Share story

Organizers had hoped 100 black men would show up at Seattle’s South Shore PK-8 School on Monday morning, part of National African American Parent Involvement Day.

More than twice that number turned out, greeting students with enthusiastic high-fives and cheers of encouragement as they walked into their school.

The goal: dispel negative stereotypes of black men by showing students examples of successful black politicians, police officers and professors.

“Everyone is interested in changing the narrative,” said Earl Parker, whose son attends South Shore. “America only sees us on the news, in sports or entertainment. They don’t see us as fathers, as professionals.”

The men were encouraged to come in their work attire. They formed a line, starting at the school’s front doors and stretching down its front walkway. Some wore police uniforms, suits and academic regalia. Among those in the line were Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and Seattle School Board Director Stephan Blanford.

As the buses started to arrive about 7:30 a.m., the men began to cheer and greet the students with lines like “Hello, future president.” With African drumming in the background, the high-fives continued for 45 minutes.

“Keep in mind the power of ‘Hello,’ ” South Shore parent and organizer Anthony Shoecraft told participants before students arrived. “The impact it can have on their day, the rest of this month, the rest of their lives.”

Bryan Adamson, a professor at the Seattle University School of Law, wore his academic robe and hat with the emblem of Case Western Reserve University, where he earned his juris doctor. He grew up in a housing project in Ohio, and wanted to show students that they could become a tenured professor, like him.

“Growing up, we never did something like this,” he said. “I had great role models, but this would have made it better.”

The men, and parents who walked through the high-five line with their children, spoke about the importance of the students seeing black men in a positive light, when images in the media often suggest otherwise.

“(Students) remember, and they model,” Adamson said. “They see these images of what they could become, whether they look like us or not, and go into their communities. They are the ones changing the narrative.”

The high-fives served as the start of a number of National African American Parent Involvement Day events at the school on Monday. The school has marked the day, which calls for more parental involvement in education, for the past eight years. Participants heard from education advocates and district officials, toured classrooms and played games with students.

South Shore is in the Rainier Beach neighborhood and has about 640 students, of whom 43 percent are black, 25 percent are Asian, 11 percent are white and 10 percent are Hispanic.

Organizers hope the high-five tradition spreads to other city schools, and districts beyond Seattle.

“It was a beautiful experience, with brothers answering the call,” Parker said. “ … We’re hoping this catches on.”