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Student kneels during national anthem in act of protest

Julia Howell, Editor in Chief of the World

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Before the start of yesterday’s football game T’Salla James, senior, made a statement against current issues in the country by kneeling during the national anthem in front of a stadium packed full of people.

James considers herself a very “straightforward person” when it comes how she feels about social problems going on around her. The main issue she decided to kneel in protest for is shootings that have been taking place throughout the country.

“They [the shootings] dehumanize the victims based off of their race. My siblings and I can’t walk together as a family without being watched or accused of bad behavior we do not do. I know that what’s going on isn’t right and kneeling shows that I am aware of what is going on in the world today and that it needs to be fixed,” James said.

Before the football games begin, the cheerleaders and dance team stand on the sideline. On her left stood Tonyce Jackson, senior, and on the right stood Justin Rager, junior. Both teammates and close friends supported T’Salla’s actions by laying their hand on her shoulder as she knelt.

“I didn’t even know she was going to kneel that night but when I saw her kneeling I knew she might be ridiculed for doing it. I didn’t think she should be criticized for her beliefs,” Rager said. “The fist is a universal symbol of ‘Black Lives Matter!’. I was trying to support that message while supporting T’Salla by putting my other hand on her.”

Trenton and Julie James, T’Salla’s father and mother, were prepared for T’Salla to kneel during the anthem after many discussions that they had had with her over about the past month. 

“I was proud of the fact that she was choosing to do something many people could view as controversial that her mother and I see as being extremely brave,” Trenton said. “I was not worried about negative backlash because this was something we discussed and were prepared to deal with. The goal was an intelligent and silent protest which I believe was accomplished.”

From a very young age, T’Salla has been exposed to different types of protest around her community. When she was two years old, her mother and father took her to a Klu Klux Klan rally at the Topeka State Capitol in hopes of experiencing and educating not only themselves but their children.

“We not only wanted to see with our own eyes what it meant to display hate on such a grand scale but without the fear or public scrutiny and judgement for a lifestyle many would find controversial,” Trenton said. “I should mention many American flags were on display along with Swastika’s and other forms of visual hate.”

Both her parents and family were prepared for the backlash they might face with this action being viewed as very controversial to many. So far T’Salla and her family say they have been met with nothing but support and will continue to support T’Salla in her decision.

“What she [T’Salla] did was right because she felt moved in her heart to do so and she was nonviolent. Anyone who disagrees with her would hear from me that no matter how much hate or ignorance they possess, someone like us, still care enough about their humanity that we would do the same for them,” Julie, mother, said.

Jenee Larsen Rager, mother of Justin Rager, made a facebook post last night after the game detailing with a lengthy post and a picture how proud she was of T’Salla’s bravery especially and making note how significant that moment was for so many people. The post currently has 236 reactions, 85 shares, and 24 comments.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but somehow this one doesn’t capture all the emotions and thoughts that preceded the moment for the three kids in the middle…,” Jenee said. “Ultimately, this one brave girl chose to follow her heart and take the risk and take a knee. And ultimately I’m very proud of my son and the other young lady for the way they supported their friend/cousin as she made this very brave move. These are the kids who are going to make our country great again.”

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Student kneels during national anthem in act of protest