To culminate the Rams' Black History Month celebration, the team partnered with EVERFI to host the "African American History: Untold Stories" webinar for more than 300 Los Angeles region students, grades 6-9. Rams front office staff members participated in the virtual discussion moderated by Johnathan Franklin, Rams Director of Social Justice and Football Development.
"We come together on this Zoom webinar to continue the conversation of how we can all inspire change, create history with our own choices, and learn about who has come before us and how those individuals have paved the way for us all," said Franklin as he welcomed students.
The honest, vulnerable and bold conversation explored and celebrated the exceptional achievements made by Black leaders and pioneers, such as Rams Legends Kenny Washington, Woody Strode and James "Shack" Harris.
"The Rams are committed to highlighting leaders that are advocating for justice, addressing disparities and inspiring change," said Franklin. "As we think about inspiring change, it has been in our franchise DNA since the beginning. I think of Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, who broke the color barrier in 1946 when the Rams signed them as well as Shack Harris, who became the first Black quarterback to start and win a playoff game following the 1974 season."
During the 40-minute discussion, panelists Bianca Graves, Rams Manager of Partnership Marketing, and Daiveun Curry-Chapman, Rams Senior Account Executive of Ticket Sales, spoke to students from Applied Technology Center High School, California High School, Ensure High School, Highland Park Continuation High School, Independence High School, KIPP Corazón Academy, Palmdale High School, Taft Charter High School, Verdugo Hills High School and Walt Whitman High School. The discussion focused on how they learned about Black history, the roles they want to play in creating positive change, and how the lives of Washington, Strode and Harris continue to inspire people today.
"When we think about breaking barriers, we think about Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Shack Harris, and women like Shirley Chisholm. You think about everything they had to overcome and the adversity that they faced," explained Graves. "I know we're living in unprecedented times, so really understanding our history and understanding what those before us have gone through to get to where they were, or currently are, should be an inspiration and encouragement to everyone. You may face adversity, you may face hard times, but if you put your mind to it and you have the resources, support and encouragement to do those things, then change is always possible."
Many stories of Black America have gone untold throughout history. The webinar highlighted some of those stories and encouraged students to be curious and have meaningful dialogue.
"Speaking and connecting with friends and colleagues is big," said Curry-Chapman. "My family is from Louisiana. I got to speak to my grandfather before he passed away about his upbringing and how it was growing up in the 50s and 60s in Louisiana, the transition from Louisiana to Los Angeles, escaping the 'Jim Crow South' and coming out west. I was able to find out so much. The biggest thing is tapping into some of the older generations. Tap into our elders and really get that foundation of what they had to go through. That helps you understand where we can go."
The panelists motivated students to be listeners but most important, be "doers" in their communities. Curry-Chapman explained the importance of paying homage to those in the past that have inspired change and encouraged students to emulate their role models.
To close the discussion, students were given the opportunity to ask questions and seek advice. Many of the students drew from personal experiences and explored topics like combating racism, the importance of learning a diverse history, the values professionals should possess and how to find positive role models.
The Rams' Black History Month efforts were grounded in an unwavering spirit to Inspire Change by honoring the team's history, celebrating the present and paving the way for the future. Throughout February, the Rams shared the stories and accomplishments of front office staff members who continue to pioneer with a purpose in our communities. The stories are on the Rams' website and LinkedIn page.
"It's reassuring to know that we all can make a difference," said Franklin. "We all can mark our name in history by just making individual choices, being bold and taking chances."
To learn more about the Rams' Black History Month efforts, please visit https://www.therams.com/community/black-history-month.