top of page

Inspired By Bravery, Courage, and Will

"TRUDE LAMB WAITS in the hallway with the other speakers and, when she hears her name, enters the room where a school board meeting in Tyler, Texas, is being held. It's a sultry evening in late June. In the center of the room, a wooden lectern faces the seven board members of Tyler Independent School District.

Trude is 16 years old, the 11th speaker in a procession of 40, and those who came before her had approached the lectern with small speeches in hand. They clutched pieces of paper that withered in the summer heat and contained notes about legacies and history, two words that had defined the town for decades and were being summoned once again to discuss the name of Robert E. Lee High School, which is Trude's school and the reason she is here.

She wears a black T-shirt that says "The time is now," and on the back is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "Justice too long delayed is justice denied." Trude's pants, which her family has never seen her wear, are red, patterned and bright. Later, her mother, Laura Owens, will say it looked like her daughter was going to battle. On her wrist, she wears beads from Ghana, to remind her of home, to remind her to be brave. The day before, she had written a letter to the school board. Now she holds it in her hands and reads.

"I am one of your true African and first-generation African American students at REL. I am from Ghana, Africa, where slavery first began. I came to America in 2014."

She had typed the letter on her phone while sitting on the couch, prompted by texts from classmates who were petitioning to change the names of Robert E. Lee High School and John Tyler High School, both in the same school district.

"I have stood in the dungeons of the slave castle and seen the three-foot urine and feces stains on the walls where my brothers and sisters