Love not hate: Wayland residents rally against racism towards Superintendent Easy


Credit: Charlotte Thirman

Wayland community members gather along Old Connecticut Path in front of the entrance to Wayland High School. Demonstrators voiced their support of Superintendent Omar Easy following the racist graffiti targeted towards him.

Nadya Chase, Aimee Smith, and Katya Luzarraga

From 7:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22, Wayland community members held an antiracism rally in response to racist graffiti targeting Superintendent Omar Easy found on the Wayland Community Pool, Wednesday, Dec. 21. The rally took place along Old Connecticut path outside of the Wayland High School.

On Dec. 21, several Wayland residents and officials, including acting Police Chief Ed Burnam, School Committee Chair Chris Ryan and METCO officials, condemned the racist incident.

“We hope that this incident is fully investigated, that students of color are cared for, that all students learn from this horrific event and that community leaders like Dr. Easy receive the respect and safety they are entitled to,” METCO officials wrote in their statement.

The graffiti included racial slurs directed at “Omar,” referring to Easy. The incident was a personal issue for many students of color in the Wayland community.

“That word does not define us people of color, and we stand by that,” WHS sophomore Nadya Montrond said.

Some Wayland community members, like residents Nancy Seward and Meg Flatley, decided to take action by organizing a town-wide rally in an effort to denounce the racist acts. Seward and Flatley organized the “Love not Hate” rally through posts made on the Wayland Community Forum Facebook page.

“We must show our community members of color that we stand with them,” Kiplee Johnson wrote on behalf of Flatley in her post.

The rally encouraged concerned community members to come together and combat racist messages by holding up signs, or simply showing their support by being present.

“The words that were written on the pool are not Wayland,” Wayland Select Board member Tom Fay said. “It’s important we come out today as a community to reject the hate those words caused. We want to send a message to Superintendent Omar Easy that we support him, and it’s important for us adults to come out and show students how to speak out and act against hate.”

Some METCO parents attended the rally to support the WHS community after yesterday’s racist incidents, as well as to support their children who were affected by yesterday’s racist message. Another reason people attended the rally was to hold those responsible accountable.

“I showed up today because I feel like if we don’t show up, it’s going to be another slap on the wrist, and by next week, everybody’s not going to be talking about it,” METCO parent Toni Lopes said.

Along with concerned parents and community members, some WHS students supported the rally with posters and call-to-action messages, such as senior Austin Russell’s sign encouraging cars to honk their horns in support of the rally.

“What happened yesterday was a tragedy, and should never be happening at our school,” Russell said. “When there’s a racist attack against a prominent figure in Wayland, it’s a personal attack on a deeper level that isn’t warranted at all.”

The WHS administration supports the community members’ antiracism message. The administration addressed the racist graffiti with a memo to all students, faculty and families, as well as by holding an emergency advisory meeting for students at 1:23 p.m., Wed., Dec. 21. The meeting gave students the opportunity to address the racist incident and its effect on Wayland’s student body in a safe environment.

“I think the protest is a fantastic show of the values of this community,” WHS Vice Principal Sean Gass said. “I was proud to drive into school this morning and see the group of people who were out there. I was proud to see the messages fighting racism and the messages of love and acceptance, and I hope that the community’s voice continues to be heard.”

However, some WHS students are disappointed with the public response to the incident.

“I feel like the community could do much more,” WHS sophomore Kiarra Shouder said. “Sooner or later, they’re just going to brush it off their shoulders. They’re not going to take it as seriously.”

The graffiti was not Wayland’s first racist incident. On Dec. 10 and Dec. 20 of 2021, there were similar rallies at Wayland Middle School to address a “racially motivated and threatening” social media post and graffitied racial slurs on eighth grade bathroom walls.

“Unfortunately we’ve done a number of these [rallies] in the past,” Flatley said. “We understand how invisible and persistent racism can be, and it is our hope that this will be one component of the work we do to combat racism. This is a reactive response, but we need to be doing more proactive work as humans to avoid future racist issues.”

Many Wayland community members at the rally, like resident Ann Landry, believe that the rally was an important first step in the fight against racism in Wayland. They believe that it is neccesary to create an open and ongoing discussion about racism in Wayland.

“I think that this rally is a way to open people’s hearts and make them realize that racism is an ongoing problem,” Landry said. “Racism is so embedded in the American story, that you can’t just say everything is fine.”

More coverage to follow.