A 14-year-old North Carolina high schooler put her investigative skills to the test when she was made privy to a racist group chat among her fellow classmates.
“I was like, ‘Add me to it,’ because I wanted to see what they were talking about,” Cenayia Edwards told ABC 11. “And I wanted to have proof that they were talking about this.”
One of her white friends at East Wake High School in Wendell, NC, told her about a group of students that created a chat and the thread had taken an ugly, racist turn, according to ABC 11.
Before joining the group, Cenayia changed her avatar to a white face in order to gain access. What she read was shocking and vile.
Messages like “Pullin triggers and shootin n******,” and “Kill n****** babies” were included.
The hashtag “#bring slavery back” was used and one person in the group chat contemplated whether or not they should have the screen name “Black slayer.”
When she finally called them out for their racist comments, the reply from someone in the group chat was a cartoon meme of a penguin with a gun saying, “Shut up n*****.”
“It made me feel very offended,” she said. “And to find out who the person was in that the group chat, I was really shocked.”
There are 1,415 students enrolled at East Wake.
Minority enrollment accounts for 69 percent, with Black students making up the majority of that percentage, which is higher than the North Carolina state average by 51 percent, according to the school’s profile.
“It’s very scary,” Cenayia’s mother, Cecelia Pope Edwards, told ABC 11.
She serves as an Army recruiter and often works at her daughter’s high school.
“It made me feel uncomfortable because I’m not sure what my daughter’s up against,” Cecelia added with concern about her Cenayia’s safety.
“Because we’re getting text messages from her being upset while she should be studying in her Honors English class about kids laughing because they think using these words or saying that they’re ‘gonna kill Black kids’ and ‘if it ain’t white it ain’t right’; ‘if it ain’t white, burn it,’” Cecelia recalled.
Still, Cenayia has her parent's full support.
“I’m going to allow my daughter to be heard,” Cenayia’s father, Corderro Edwards, said. “My daughter’s not going to be quiet.”
After she alerted her parents to the disturbing messages, the Edwardses contacted the school’s principal.
“We were supposed to hear something back by Tuesday this week,” Mr. Edwards said.
“The principal is still investigating,” a WCPSS spokesperson told ABC 11 in a statement after the network reached out because the Edwardses hadn’t heard back from the school principal.
“It appears that most of the students are from Johnston County, which means the investigation is more complex,” the spokesperson added.
Johnston County Schools’ demographics differ from East Wake High School with 78 percent white and 15 percent Black.
“We are aware and looking into the matter,” a spokesperson from Johnston County Public Schools told ABC 11.
“We have to be really vigilant about incidents that happen like this,” community advocate Kerwin Pittman told ABC 11. “They should really take this seriously because if this happened among one popular group in school, imagine what’s going on in the rest of the high school.”
Meanwhile, Cenayia decided to use an English class assignment to address the racist group chat and the emotional trauma it caused her by writing her own version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic speech, “I Have a Dream.”
BET reached out to East Wake High School and was told the principal could not be located at the time and that the Wake County spokesperson should be contacted instead.
BET has yet to hear back from the Wake County office after leaving a voice-mail message requesting comment.
(Photo: Nora Carol Photography)