$5000 in Scholarships Awarded

$5000 in Scholarships Awarded

Equal Justice Initiative and Alexandria Community Remembrance Project honor Alexandria City High School Students

Remembrance Students

Remembrance Students


Photo by Jeff Hancock

London Jones, ACHS Junior and first place winner with Equal Justice Initiative representative Deksyos Damtew.


Alexandria City High School students committed to racial justice were honored in City Council Chambers on Saturday, May 20, 2023 by the City of Alexandria and ACPS school leadership, the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project and the Equal Justice Initiative. https://eji.org/about/ 

Three students were awarded a total of $5000 in scholarships from EJI, the national non-profit, based in Montgomery, Ala., for essays exploring racial disparities in health care, modern day lynchings and a historic narrative that makes it a crime to be Black. At the same event, Mayor Justin Wilson, members of City Council, and ACPS School Board members celebrated the 40 Alexandria City High School students who have worked with ACRP to acknowledge and remember Alexandria lynching victims Joseph McCoy (April 23, 1897) and Benjamin Thomas (August 8, 1899). 

In a city-wide proclamation, the youth were deemed the “Remembrance Students,” and were challenged to keep up the work and move it forward. 

“These students will continue to represent Alexandria and the Remembrance Project and honor the lives of Joseph McCoy and Benjamin Thomas after graduation, by telling the whole truth of our history and working to further the cause of equity and social justice for all people…so that our city may be an example for all,” Mayor Wilson read the proclamation to a crowd of at least 60 people.

EJI Project Associate Deksyos Damtew, announced the winners of the EJI Racial Justice Essay Contest. Third place went to ACHS freshman Ayesha Anwar who wrote about the fatal consequences caused by racial disparities in healthcare. ACHS freshman Rena Cooper landed in second place with her research into modern day lynchings. EJI judges ultimately chose London Jones' essay, “How Did We Get Here?” on the plight of Black teenage boys wrongfully accused of crimes for first place. The ACHS junior plans to use the $2500 scholarship to go to an HBCU to study the Humanities. 

Jones said she was shocked when she heard her name called as the First Place winner. After receiving the award, Jones read her moving essay aloud, at times through tears.

“I’m extremely grateful for having this opportunity and for being recognized by such inspiring figures,” Jones said. One of those influential leaders, she referenced, is EJI Founder Bryan Stevenson, an attorney who works to overturn death sentences of the wrongfully convicted. 

EJI organized and judged the essay contest that Alexandria Community Remembrance Project and Alexandria City Public Schools launched this past Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Students in grades 9-12 were eligible to enter by researching a racial justice topic and submitting an essay between 800 and 1000 words by March 17, 2023. ACRP partnered with Alexandria City High School, Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities, and the Alexandria Library to offer writing and editing support to students wishing to enter the contest. Ten ACHS students submitted final essays and EJI selected the three scholarship winners.  

EJI sponsors the Racial Justice Essay Contests for public school students to advance the efforts of local Remembrance Projects. The contests are designed to invite community members to learn and engage in conversations about the history of racial injustice. Alexandria Community Remembrance Project is part of EJI’s Community Remembrance Project, which supports community coalitions across the country in memorializing victims of racial terror lynching and fostering meaningful reflection about the legacy of racial violence. 

The Alexandria Community Remembrance Project (ACRP) is a city-wide initiative dedicated to helping Alexandria understand its history of racial terror hate crimes and to work toward creating a welcoming community bound by equity and inclusion.Learn more about Alexandria’s Remembrance Project and the essay contest here