Elissa Genova (left, in blue), Emma Dohnalik (in white), Ann Allen (in denim) and Jennifer Smith (in purple) install the ‘Say Their Names’ display at LHHS. Photos by Carol Toler.

Fierce Female Lowry Manders helped create the Lake Highlands Area Moms Against Racism Facebook page in June, but she didn’t stop there. With the help of Elizabeth Vaughan and Ann Allen, she marshaled LH’s considerable momma resources for a new project, “Say Their Names,” now being installed at Lake Highlands High School.

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The memorial includes photo cards, ribbons and flowers for hundreds of Black Americans who died as the result of racism. RISD and LHHS have given permission for the project, which will remain on the fence outside Wildcat Stadium during the month of July.

“I want to do it, I’m proud to do it,” said Allen, “because I want this story to get out there. I think having it out by the Fourth of July is fantastic timing, because it will hopefully encourage people to come out and think about things white people just haven’t seen.”

“It’s important to me to come up here and see the names, then say the names, then look up the stories from the past,” agreed Jennifer Smith, who has 5th and 9th grade daughters in LH-area schools. “Not enough has changed. I also want to share the stories with my girls, because they can learn better than I’ve learned. They can discontinue this past and this pattern we are in. We need to shift that pattern.”

Elissa Genova believes Richardson ISD and other public school districts can improve the way they teach students about racism and Black history. As she helped other volunteers hang red and black ribbons, she recalled an eye-opening discussion with her daughter.

“A couple of years ago, my daughter came home from school and I brought up Martin Luther King,” shared Genova. “She said, ‘He ended racism.’ I realized it’s something we need to be discussing a lot more. I’m hoping that having this memorial on a highly visited street in Lake Highlands will foster discussion – even if it’s just a quick conversation in your car.”

“I don’t think kids are taught this in their curriculum,” agreed Dara Dohnalik, who brought both of her daughters to help build the display. “The whole idea of the memorial is to remember our history. We need to work on doing better. When we see all these names and faces, we see the past and present and realize we still have a lot of work to do.”

Addie Dohnalik, a 2020 graduate of LHHS, admitted it took some coercing to get her up and working in the heat during summer vacation.

“My mom dragged us out of bed this morning, but it’s nice to feel like we’re doing something, even if we’re just cutting flowers. There are lots of discussions going on, but this is something we can actually do. Our generation is willing to have the tough conversations, but that doesn’t mean we’re not blind to what’s going on.”

Dohnalik said she’s optimistic that real change is possible now.

“People are actually saying something. Some people will choose to ignore, but some people will listen.”

Kathianne Williams was dropping her daughter off for a dance class at the Lake Highlands Recreation Center pavilion when she saw the women working on the project. She rolled up her sleeves and joined them.

“We’re an interracial family,” Williams explained. “My husband is Black and my daughter is biracial, so this issue hits really close to home. My husband is a social justice warrior, and I think it’s really important to see how prevalent this is and how many victims there are. We need to say Black Lives Matter.”

Like Dohnalik, Williams believes the current appetite for progress feels different, somehow.

“I’m optimistic that things are changing, and I was feeling hopeless before the last few weeks. This is not going to change the minds of some people — they are already entrenched in their views. But this shows support for people of color. Hopefully, this is not just a phase. Sometimes people get upset, then it fades away. This is not going away. People are remembering.”

2020 LHHS grad Addie Dohnalik hangs flowers near the photo of Martin Luther King

Dara Dohnalik and other volunteers mixed photos of recent racism victims with persons killed in other eras.