Alexander McQueen, your next foot model just got a diploma
In a year of social isolation and seniors robbed of graduations, this Hahnville High School faculty member went too far
The class of 2020 — from kindergarten to college — were robbed of a traditional graduation ceremony. Why? Coronavirus. On one hand, I felt bad for them because I have photo albums spilling over with photos of family members and friends at four of my graduation parties. On the other hand, they had virtual celebrations with the who’s who in celebrities — from former President Barack H. Obama with HBCU’s “Show Me Your Walk” to high schools’ “Graduate Together” with Lebron James.
And now that Pfizer and Moderna are getting social isolators back to normal, I thought it was cool to see that 2021 graduates would have their moment. That is, until I read a CNN report about Hahnville High School at Boutte, Louisiana. According to the report, a faculty member told graduating senior Daverius Peters that he could not walk across the stage to get his diploma wearing black Alexander McQueen shoes.
My first thought was, “Who would have a problem with black shoes?” My memory is dusty (my last graduation was in 2003), but I don’t remember shoes being a deal-breaker at any of my four graduation ceremonies. I distinctly recall that we couldn’t draw on the caps, although I found this kind of creativity pretty entertaining. But that was about it.
However, according to the report, the young man in Alexander McQueen shoes was violating the dress code. Although the dress code was “dark-colored dress shoes” that were not slippers, sneakers or open-toed shoes, somehow he didn’t make the cut.
My second reaction to CNN’s “Good Stuff” newsletter was, “How in the hell is this good news?” It turns out that Peters’ mentor/teacher, John Butler — whose daughter was also graduating — was also there. And after Butler tried and failed at convincing the faculty member that Peters’ shoes were OK, he realized the obvious thing had to happen.
Butler took off his own shoes, which were two sizes too big, and Peters was able to walk across the stage and celebrate graduating high school. The teenager had to curl his toes to keep his mentor’s shoes on as he walked, but he was able to celebrate his big day. His mother, Jim Smooth, didn’t even know it was him because of the shoes he was sliding around in.
“You don’t stop a kid from receiving his high school diploma, already the most important moment of their life to that point, you don’t take that away for something as small as shoes — and that’s exactly what was going to happen,” Butler told CNN.
Now I’m fairly certain that I’m supposed to be cheering and smiling for Butler being a dynamic leader and doing this gracious act. I know I am. Instead, I am seething and “Moonlight” keeps popping into my brain. If you recall the 2017 Oscar Awards, you remember that awkward moment between the cast of “La La Land” and the Barry Jenkins’ film. You know that there was some confusion backstage with the winning card, and the cast had to then announce that they lost the “Best Picture” Award. Cringeworthy but necessary, the real winners came onstage with the “La La Land” cast.
Instead of viewers talking about a brave, intriguing film starring singer Janelle Monae, Mahershala Ali (“Roxanne, Roxanne” and “Hidden Figures”), Alex R. Hibbert (“The Chi”), Jharrel Jerome (“When They See Us” and “Concrete Cowboy”) and how a film like this won an Oscar, all we remember is the “La La Land” confusion.
As much as I would like to believe that Peters remembers his graduation day for being around his friends, family and educational accomplishment, if this story made it all the way to CNN, that shoe stunt has to still be on his mind. He didn’t even tell his mother until after the graduation was over, so she at least had a moment to celebrate her son’s accomplishment.
I give major kudos to Peters for thinking on the spot, and for Butler being barefoot and proud of his mentee, but I’m still left thinking, “Was it really worth it? After an entire year of schools being shut down and an entire class of people who couldn’t meet in groups to walk across the stage, this is how Hahnville High School faculty members felt they should act — about black Alexander McQueen shoes?” If all else fails, I certainly hope Alexander McQueen acknowledges that his shoes were such a big deal that someone almost missed their graduation over them. Still though, what a way to remember your graduation. Congratulations to the students, but the school needs to retest its values.
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