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Thoughts on What’s Next from the Rye High Alum Organizers of the Black Lives Matter Protest

BLM March Rye, NY 6-13-2020 Organizers(PHOTO: The organizers of the Rye Black Lives Matter march and protest Cristiana Villani (RHS’15) and Amanda Yannett (RHS ’15).)

After last Saturday’s Black Lives Matter march and protest in Rye that drew 1,000 people, the local Rye high school alum organizers Cristiana Villani and Amanda Yannett shared with MyRye.com thoughts about what’s next:

Cristiana Villani:

We are just starting. We need to keep the movement going and keep people involved and not go “back to normal”. We need people to now take action, to not just vote, but also communicate with local government about the legislation we want passed and the issues we are concerned about. We need to have the local school officials get on board with offering new curriculum that aligns with the petition recent alumni have been pushing. It is crucial that those who truly believe in the Black Lives Matter movement go beyond doing what they are doing now and push themselves, their family and their friends to do more.

Amanda Yannett:

I hope everyone felt the energy that radiated off our speakers. We need to use this energy to keep going and take tangible actions. Our speakers gave Rye residents a lot to think about. For example, why is it that the Port Chester/Rye NAACP has never been mentioned in our papers? Rye needs to start embracing diversity and acknowledging their implicit and explicit biases and prejudices. We need to be okay with having conversations that make us uncomfortable. We should encourage and embrace constructive criticism from our black community members. We need to educate ourselves and advocate for long overdue policy changes and police reform. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order – the ‘New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative’ positions Rye residents, the police department, and elected officials to truly start working together. Police forces have about 10 months to develop a reform plan but will Rye be able to keep up this momentum? I hope we will continue to come together and demand justice and change because this is just the beginning.


  1. Race, equity and inclusivity are incredibly important topics that must be addressed by schools and communities. I am so impressed by the courage and leadership being shown by our students and alumni as they challenge all of us to do better. It is never easy to share painful experiences with others and it is upsetting to know that experiences in school may have caused pain. School should be a place where students learn, grow, and develop in a comfortable, safe environment.

    As educators, we are committed to providing a school environment that is inclusive, just, and focused on equity for all. As such, it is incumbent upon us to begin and pursue a conversation that explores the issues of racism, inclusivity, equity, and community. This critically important discussion will not be easy and may be emotional for many. The Rye City School District has begun the process to create a forum to begin these conversations. Our administrative team is working to bring representative voices of our community together to tackle this important issue.

    We have begun forming a task force that will take on the challenge of ensuring that we provide a school environment that supports all students and provides equity in opportunity. We are committed to following a comprehensive process that will seek to identify areas where we fall short, opportunities for growth and in developing a plan that will ensure we achieve equity for all. The task force on race, inclusivity and community will focus on several key areas:

    Professional Development
    Student Support
    Community Education

    The task force will create a steering committee of stakeholders including students, faculty and community members to participate in this important work. A detailed action plan will be created that will guide information gathering and analysis, goal setting, communication structures, and timelines for the work ahead. The task force will identify community-based organizations and experts in the field of equity to become our partners in this critically important work.

    I know that change is long overdue and I am confident that our school community is up to the challenge and will do the hard work necessary to make lasting change and ensure equity for all in the Rye City Schools.

    Eric Byrne
    Superintendent of Schools
    Rye City School District


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