Robert E. Lee High School athlete refuses to wear jersey unless name is changed

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TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The effort to rename Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Texas has heated up again, following the death of George Floyd along with nationwide and international protests of police brutality and systemic racism.

One athlete for the school is attempting to take her own stand, as the TISD board meets Monday, for the first time since an online petition to change the name has reached nearly 10,000 signatures.

Trude Lamb, a sophomore cross country runner, immigrated to the United States from Ghana in 2014. She wrote a letter to board members, which began by saying: “I have stood in the dungeons of the slave castle and see the three foot urine and feces stains on the walls… I have worked the very fields and fetched water for my family from the very places my people were kidnapped.”

Lamb writes that she loves the sports she plays at Lee, but that she can’t support a school that bears his name “and will no longer wear his name on my race jersey.”

He owned slaves and didn’t believe people like me were 100% human let alone ever go to my very high school… I don’t see a future of remembering a person who did nothing for our country and who didn’t care for me or my people. He continues to bring our city down.

Trude Lamb

Lamb is asking the school to “change the name, not to ‘Tyler LEE’ but after someone who we can all be proud of.” Family members have started the hashtag #wewontwearthename for those who want to express support on social media.

According to Lamb’s family, Trude and her brother Felix are local celebrities back home, because they are the first to go to America. Relatives report back to the village elders about how the siblings are doing in school and the message is then relayed to everyone else.

Whenever they return home, a feast is prepared in their honor and the village is “incredibly proud of them and honored that they represent their culture and heritage here in America.”

A close family member said that her younger brother Felix was challenged by the elders in a foot race during their last visit. Felix, who is entering the 8th grade, won the race.

Back in May, the Lamb family was scheduled to return but is not able to due to the coronavirus. The Ghana border is currently closed to all international traffic.

Change.org petition started earlier this month was organized by a woman named Imani Rivera, who is encouraging all who support the name change to peacefully protest at the meeting Monday night.

The name change is not on the agenda, so it is unclear if the board will allow anyone to speak about it. Other supporters of the name change are expected outside the meeting for a peaceful protest that begins 7 p.m.

A similar online movement was started in 2018 and presented before the board. However, they refused to vote on a motion and the debate ended.  

Here is Trude Lamb’s letter in full:

I am one of you {sic} true African and 1st generation African-American students at REL. I am from Ghana, Africa where slavery first began. I came to America in 2014. 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 were kept. I’ve seen the tiny hole at the top of the ceiling where they would throw food in to the captured souls. I’ve walked through the “Gate of No Return” where over 12 million of my brothers and sisters were kidnapped never to return back to their home. I have worked the very fields and fetched water for my family from the very places my people were kidnapped.

I love and enjoy the sports I play at REL. I can’t be playing sports, supporting, and going to a school that was named after a person who was against my people right here in the United States. He owned slaves and didn’t believe people like me were 100% human let alone ever go to my very high school. I cannot bear and will no longer wear his name on my race jersey. I’m currently the fastest girl on your varsity cross country team. I held that place my 9th grade year and plan to do the same my 10th grade year.

I don’t see a future of remembering a person who did nothing for our country and who didn’t care for me or my people. He continues to bring our city down.

As one of your black students, I’m respectfully asking you take up the REL name change issue. Please vote to change the name, not to “Tyler LEE” but after someone who we can all be proud of. Using the excuse that it would be too expensive, is not okay. This town was built on the back of my enslaved brothers and sisters. Do it in their memory and honor the future of their ancestors that are at REL.

I hope you understand where I am coming from.

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