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Barack Obama Elementary School Celebrates Official Change of Name

Kids and teachers smiling
Students and teachers gather to celebrate the new name of Barack Obama Elementry School (Photo: Alan Rodriguez Espinoza/VPM)

*VPM Intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza reported this story 

Richmond city leaders gathered at Barack Obama Elementary School Friday to officially celebrate changing the school’s name. In 2018, the Richmond Public School Board voted to rename the school, which previously was named in honor of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart.

The ceremony was comprised of poetry and musical performances from students and remarks from Richmond City officials. It all led up to the unveiling of a plaque that commemorated the name change.

Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras says the change was part of a larger effort to create symbols of opportunity and civil rights in the city -- a contrast from the city’s Confederate past.

“One of the greatest lessons of President Obama is persistence, and so we will continue to be persistent as a school division -- as a city -- to right the wrongs of the past and chart a more inclusive and equitable future,” Kamras said.

Jennifer K. Moore is the principal of Barack Obama Elementary School. She says the school’s new name sends a message to students that they can achieve anything. 

“They have a school named for a person who looks like them and it gives them a new sense of pride,” Moore said.  

Kamras and other Richmond City leaders spoke on stage during the ceremony, followed by the keynote speaker, John B. King Jr., the Secretary of Education for the Obama administration.

“I could see it in the children’s faces -- him saying that he worked with President Obama -- they just lit up,” Moore said.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney also spoke during the ceremony and helped unveil the plaque.

“A lot of kids, I think, walked away saying, ‘You know what? I can be president of the United States. I can be the mayor for the city of Richmond. I can be a teacher and make a difference in someone’s life,’” Stoney said. “Yes, we can.”

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.