Civil Rights icon inspires students

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Last Friday, Feb. 16, a member of the Little Rock Nine, Carlotta Walls LaNier, visited and spoke at Central in honor of Black History Month to share her experiences with discrimination throughout her education. Only juniors watched her speak live in the auditorium because they are currently studying US history, while freshmen, sophomores, and seniors watched a live-stream of LaNier’s speech from their second period classrooms. 

The Little Rock Nine was a group of black students who attended the all-white Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. On September 4, 1957, Governor Orval Faubus made a call for guards to block the black students from entering the high school. Other Little Rock students and community members followed the governor’s and gaurds’ leads and attempted to stop the nine students from entering the school using physical and verbal force. 

LaNier was the first black female to graduate from Little Rock Central high school. Since then, LaNier has spoken and written about her experiences of being a symbol for the ’60s Civil Rights Movement, and, along with the other Little Rock Nine students, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by Former President Bill Clinton.

LaNier talked about her experiences, and how she felt in the face of the severe discrimination targeted at her and the eight other students. She said she believed that walking outside Little Rock High School might’ve been her last moments because of how terrifying it was.

“I thought hearing a primary source from an event so important in history was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it was an amazing speech given by a woman so courageous and strong to be able to live in a time where she was not accepted into society because of her skin color,” said Karem Alnatafgi, junior.

Maiwan Amegadjie, junior, was chosen to speak briefly before Friday’s crowd, introducing LaNier while also offering her own opinions on today’s current racial issues. 

“I was scared but happy that I had the honor of presenting there and knowing LaNier’s story. I thought her presentation was good and how she didn’t focus on leadership but focused on character and it was empowering,” Amegadjie said.

In her speech, LaNeir highlighted how important education was for her and why she risked her life to attend school every day.

“I think it was inspiring to have her come to our school. She’s from a time period in which we could never imagine the hardships she’s gone through. We take for granted the fact that we have such an amazing opportunity to go to a challenging and accepting high school, and having our speaker come tell us her experiences really made me realize how fortunate I am,” said Jennah Khan, junior.

In her speech, LaNeir also advised students to serve in the community and become leaders for change. She said students should always speak up, and when the time comes, they should vote because their voices need to be heard. LaNier said students don’t realize that they have the power and chance for their voices to be heard, and they often ignore that exclusive opportunity.

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