[Opinion] The Legacy of Aleshia Armour: Why Grandview Should Be Inspired By Overland Principal


Maya Epstein

“Lift every voice and sing/ Till earth and heaven ring…”

The meeting began with the Black National Anthem. It would end on a similar note. At about seven in the evening on February 24th, we split into break-out rooms, celebrating Black Excellence in five ways:

Room 5: Innovative Engineers, featuring Diamond Gillis and Asha Patrick. CCSD graduates.

Room 4: Artistic Entrepreneurs, shining a light on the work of Kiana Gatling, Brien Hollowell, and Selah Ruckard. Also CCSD graduates. Stunning.

Room 3: Talking with Your Students About Race. Presented by Barbara Edwards and Dr. Kinette Richards. I met Dr. Richards once, in a seminar for Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR). She pushed me. That’s how we grow.

Room 2: Self-Care/Mental Health, courtesy of Cameron Prisjatschew. I’ve been struggling with both, of late.

Room 1: Systemic School Approaches to Conversations About Race. Mia Robinson, Principal, Village East Elementary School.

Aleshia Armour. Principal. Overland High School.

With my life, I want to make movies. I chose room four.

I did not know Mrs. Aleshia Armour. I did not hear her speak. I did, however, see her face on the backlit screen of my Chromebook. She was vibrant. She had a beautiful smile.

Tonight, when I should’ve been taking a quiz on the Politics of the 1920s, I found her Instagram – she’s photoshopped herself into a Black Panther poster. Principal Armour, it says. There’s a baked salmon (maybe with dill butter? I can’t tell). Family pictures in rafts, family pictures in woods, family pictures in golden fields at golden hours. Posts about equity. About justice. About future leaders.

Is it okay to say I don’t care about the critical values of confidence intervals on this night? That, sitting on this bed, clammy and cold, I don’t care about the ACT?

As my childhood dwindles and my high school years fly, I’ve been asked what legacy I want to leave behind. Truthfully? I don’t really think I get to choose. I don’t think I want to.

So it’s a cliche. I don’t care. It is our actions, more so than our words, that form the foundations of our being. We are full people. We are our own sinew and marrow. Our glory days. We are all the people we lost, every person we hurt, and each heart we loved. Our Achilles Heel(s). We are the fights we fought and the dreams we dreamed.

On February 28th, 2021, I stumbled across Grandview High School’s Twitter. “The Grandview Wolves stand with the Overland Blazers community during this very difficult time. Much love to you all.”

What does it mean to stand with someone as a Wolf, I wonder. Does it mean something separate from standing as a humbled, aching human? Does it mean occasional sugar-glazed pictures on social media? GIFs? Digital immortality?

If we at Grandview seek to stand with Overland High School; if we in Cherry Creek wish to honor the legacy of Mrs. Aleshia Armour — let us do so in an actionable way.

‘Twas June 2nd, 2020. In response to the slaughter of George Floyd and the xenophobia hurled towards Asian Americans, Superintendent Scott Siegfried wrote “We feel a sense of urgency to speak and to act.”

In my classrooms, there has been no speaking. Overlooking? Certainly. Ignoring? Top-notch.

The Superintendent continued: “We write to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to racial equality in Cherry Creek Schools. We write to condemn racism. We write to condemn xenophobia.”

Writing’s cool. But in my school, there has been no tangible proof of these words. I’ve seen no evidence of the district’s commitment to anti-racism, justice, or general equity, outside of the select groups and conversations I’m privileged enough to be invited to.

I know there are individuals in our community devoted to this work. I know, if nothing else, that Mrs. Aleshia Armour fought for this work.

Now, I — we — wait to see it play out on a systemic level.

Days before her untimely death, Principal Armour donated her evening to speak at a P.A.S.S. meeting on conversations about race. Perhaps she sacrificed dinner with her family (baked salmon? With dill butter?). Maybe she, like me, couldn’t sleep that night, because she was high on adrenaline, on the potential education has to forge a more equitable future.

To honor the life of Aleshia Armour, I call upon (I beg to, I grovel before) Grandview, and the Cherry Creek School District at large, to actively pursue the work she so fervently advocated for. This is how we rise.

“Lift every voice and sing/ Till earth and heaven ring,” poet, lawyer, lyricist, and NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson wrote. “…Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us/ Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us/ Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,/ Let us march on till victory is won.”