Natalie Hopkinson
4 min readMay 10, 2019


Build Banneker in Shaw as a Living Monument to Black Excellence

Benjamin Banneker.

May 10, 2019

From: John Settles Jr., Natalie Hopkinson, and Lee Granados

Parents, Benjamin Banneker Academic High School

To: Members of the Washington, D.C. City Council

Re: Build Banneker — A Monument to Black Excellence

Dear D.C. Council Members,

We respectfully ask that you to vote Tuesday to fund Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to build Benjamin Banneker Academic High School at the site of the long-vacant Shaw Middle School.

As DC residents, we share the concerns raised by our neighbors in Shaw about the history of carnage against our schools of right throughout this city. Like them, we have long been advocates of public education, and we fiercely defend not just the neighborhood system in Shaw, but all parts of the city East of Rock Creek Park that have been devastated by budget cuts, school closures and privatization in recent years.

However, we fear that the opposition against the new Banneker plan is yet another example of how addressing these citywide education issues in a whack-a-mole, piecemeal fashion simply continues the pattern of politicizing these decisions at the expense of the least powerful Washingtonians.

Let us be clear: building a new state-of-the-art Banneker, named for a pioneering black scientist who helped design our city, in a high-profile corridor in the heart of Shaw, would be a living monument to black excellence. Each day Banneker High School defies the lies told about the potential and abilities of black and brown children in our city. U.S. News & World Report recently named Banneker as the top-performing high school in the city. A third of our students come from Wards 7 and 8. More than 80 percent are black and come from working-class families. Building the school across the street from a statue of the Father of Black History Carter G. Woodson would be a powerful symbol of the city’s commitment to black excellence, despite all the false reports of its death in DC.

Each morning, Banneker children wake up early, sometimes catching multiple buses to get to school each day. You will never come across a more hard-working group of young people. Many of our parents hold multiple jobs and make enormous…