In the spring of 2020, Black students and alumni from predominantly White schools across the country posted on social media about their experiences with racism and bias. Zamien Allard ’19 watched the rise of the Black@ movement, and after a few days, he created @BlackatPCI on Instagram with several other Packer alumni, ultimately publishing 120 posts. Today there are more than 230 Black@ accounts about U.S. schools. Zamien has served as a member of the Packer Anti-Racism Council (PARC), established in September 2020 as part of Packer’s Anti-Racism Action Plan.
What was your role in the creation of @BlackatPCI?
I was aware of the movement early on. I waited a few days to see if anyone one made an account about Packer. When it seemed no one was, I realized it would feel good to share my concerns about what had happened to me, that I’d been holding in all these stories for years. The world was paying attention. I didn’t have to hold it in anymore. So I started texting a few of my old classmates and people in other grades to enlist some help with management and outreach. What can you share about the leadership of @BlackatPCI? There was a team of us. We decided on everything together for the most part.
You said that you had been “holding in all these stories.” Can you share one of them?
Sure. After I was accepted to Packer for Seventh Grade, I shadowed some Sixth Graders for a day: one White student and two Black students. At break time, a White student, surrounded by her White friends, shouted, “Why is this Black kid here? Why does Packer assign two Black dudes to the Black kid? How many more Black students does Packer need?” I watched in horror as she and her friends started laughing. The people around us either looked on in silence or laughed along with them. I don’t think the incident was ever reported. I chose not to say anything myself, out of fear of not being believed or even having my admission taken away. I knew an opportunity like Packer was rare for kids who looked like me.
Learning to suppress all the discrimination and racism I experienced at Packer started that day. It got to the point I didn’t even realize I was doing it anymore. I never even told my parents or friends what had happened to me, so it was extremely cathartic to acknowledge it. I didn’t have to lie to myself anymore and pretend these things didn’t occur.
If you could go back in time with @BlackatPCI, what advice would you give yourself?
I am at such a different point in my life now than I was that summer. I never got a chance to really process what happened with the account and my role in it. I wish someone had reminded me to take time for myself instead of constantly being in “go” mode.
I often wondered how other people viewed the account, especially White people. Cancel culture was brought up a lot that summer, and I hoped people realized we were not trying to cancel anyone. The majority of people contributing to @BlackatPCI just wanted to share experiences. In that context, people should consider if someone is really being canceled or just being called out. I don’t think if you’re being called out, you’re being canceled. You’re just being called into the conversation.
What were the best-case scenarios you were hoping for?
For teachers, I hoped they would find it in themselves to change and be better. For Packer, I hoped it would support that process by enacting policy changes or giving additional training. For students, I hoped they would see and understand what they did and how it made certain people feel, and that they would work on themselves over time.
Do you think that Packer helped you find your voice?
I was inspired by other students who were active in efforts to change their communities, both within Packer and beyond. So I would definitely give the credit to my classmates.
What is your hope for Packer in ten years?
In ten years, I hope the culture at Packer has shifted, and there is never a need for another @BlackatPCI account.