After the Black Lives Matter protests took the world by storm in the summer of 2020, conversations around the history of race infiltrated homes, the workplace and most notably, schools.
Despite a newfound opportunity to confront and heal from our nation’s history, the practice of teaching critical race theory — the belief that race has informed America’s social fabric — has been under attack in predominantly conservative states across the country, including Texas, Virginia and Florida, as Blavity previously reported.
In Greenville, North Carolina, however, D.H. Conley High School senior Alyssa Rambert noticed that her school’s curriculum around Black history was inadequate and failed to accurately teach the facts.
“What we’re showing right now is a misrepresented image of what Black history is and also noting that this partial aspect of history that we’re choosing to show does not help a certain group,” the 17-year-old told Blavity. “It’s harming both, [Black and white] it’s harming everybody, really.”
The teen decided to take matters into her own hands, creating the WE STAND web series initiative which spotlights local, Black historical figures.
“In 8th grade, I just remember learning the same thing every year; Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement,” she said. “My parents would teach me Black history at home, so I got that aspect, but there are so many kids that don’t have the resources to be able to forward their own knowledge in Black history.”
Rambert’s inspiration to be an advocate for race-conscious conversations at the high school level stemmed not only from the classroom curriculum, but from personal experience as well. In 2019, she lost a cousin to police brutality.
“I realized the root of it [racial injustice] was perspective and what we learned and making sure that we teach and represent Black people the right way, instead of these biases that we want to project,” she shared. “That’s important for me and just being able to mesh those two is what inspired me to start WE STAND.”
The WE STAND public service announcements, produced by the City of Greenville in collaboration with the Love A Sea Turtle youth leadership and conservation group, features Black changemakers and iconic areas within the city including C.M. Eppes, Lucille Gorham, Ledonia Wright and Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
In addition to her hometown advocacy, Rambert was also selected as a spotlight at the George H.W. Points of Light awards, which honors individuals who demonstrate the “transformative power of service”
“It’s exciting to be able to be recognized and be able to note a message that I’m passionate about, but also forwarding it in different communities,” she said.
She also noted that since beginning her advocacy, her school has implemented an African American studies class. When asked about her favorite historical figures, Rambert was eager to share who her biggest icon was.
“My favorite is Claudette Colvin, absolutely,” she responded without hesitation.
Colvin was arrested in 1955 when she was 15 years old for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated and crowded bus to a white woman —nine months before Rosa Parks’ protest.
“What inspired me was being able to make change at such a young age,” Rambert added.
The young visionary says she, too, aspires to incite change and wants to continue forging the WE STAND program beyond the local level.
“I would love to be able to branch out to other communities and/or nourish the ones I already have in Greenville,” she said.
Ultimately, Rambert hopes to bring her research and service to the collegiate community, where she aspires to attend either Brown University, Howard University or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to pursue ethnic studies or African American studies with a double major in political science.