DC Council: choose a name and move forward

Joanna Chait and Charlotte Guy

On Tuesday, the Council will take a final vote to determine whether to change the name of Wilson High School to Jackson-Reed High School, but students are losing patience.       

About a year ago today The Beacon’s staff wrote an article endorsing Edna B. Jackson as our school’s namesake. Our support for this pioneering Black woman and beloved educator has not wavered, but as the Editors-in-Chief of Wilson’s student newspaper, it is necessary to elevate the opinions of our peers. And the message we are getting from them is that what matters most is making a choice soon.       

Wilson students have made it clear that they’re losing interest. Not because they don’t care about the name of their school, but because they are confused by and disconnected from the process. 

Last spring, the Chancellor proposed August Wilson to be the school’s new namesake. Then, in mid-October, DC Councilmembers proposed Jackson-Reed. And right now, there is a late-breaking push for Edna Jackson.        

Tuesday’s hearing is a pivotal moment in the name change process. While we value the Council’s commitment to making a thoughtful decision and steadfast efforts thus far, we urge them to now move forward with the name soon or risk apathy from the student body. This will require all stakeholders, particularly those who are digging in their heels, to come to a consensus and move on. 

Jackson-Reed and Edna B. Jackson are both suitable options—they celebrate Black educators who made a direct impact on our community, reflect the diversity and history of our school, and honor teachers in an education system that often does not. Current and future students would be proud of either. What’s more important now is to make a decision, and quickly. 

And once the namesake of this high school is finalized, officials must make an organized effort to educate and engage students. It is students who will embody this new name. There are two new grades at our school who are disconnected from the process and the rest of the student body has been isolated from exposure to this movement. 

The student body must be able to understand the significance of this change in order to use it as a rallying cry for a better future.