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Truthful storytelling plays lead role

By Tierney Reardon

Although she might enjoy working behind the scenes in theater, rising senior KaLa Keaton has taken an up-front role in her own education throughout her high school career.

Just recently, the 17-year-old created a video in response to George Floyd’s death. After the president of the Raleigh-Apex chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) contacted her teacher, Keaton was designated as the leader/producer/director of the project.

“While doing the project for the NAACP, I really liked putting together the video,” Keaton said. “It’s kind of ‘documentary-style ish,’ and so I kind of liked doing that aspect of things and presenting information in that way.”

The six-minute video included an informational section with background about the police, and it also featured the perspectives of 20 students with connections to Wake County Public Schools for a unique and more emotional take on the subject of police brutality. It is available on YouTube and can be found under #WeAreDoneDying.

Prior to that project, Keaton founded a Social Justice Club at Middle Creek High School in Cary, North Carolina, which allowed her to work for a variety of causes as part of the club’s activities. The club immediately got involved in the community by hosting a seminar that focused on law enforcement in schools, following a theater production on the same topic.

Her desire to be involved in her community has developed from a young age. Keaton has been a Girl Scout for 10 years, and she participates in service-based activities in her high school, such as peer tutoring. She also organizes events for the Social Justice Club.

One influence especially stands out in furthering Keaton’s aspirations: Her father set an example through his over 30-year career as a journalist in freelance, print and broadcast positions throughout her childhood.

“Whenever he would go into the community, people would come up to him and they would talk about his work and the impact that his work had on their lives,” Keaton said. “I want to have that same effect on people.”

Keaton has several ideas of how best to achieve that goal and has considered a career in investigative journalism. Her initiative for learning, however, has led her to consider other options.

“I’ve been doing a whole lot of independent research on things that I haven’t learned in school,” Keaton said. “It’s just the more things that I learn that were excluded from the curriculum, the more I realize how much of my history as a Black American was left out, so I might want to pursue a career in further education reform or something like that.”

In her research, she has focused specifically on the history and the implicit biases of her previous history/social studies courses. No matter her career path, she said that she places the utmost importance on storytelling, especially for minority groups.

“The big thing for me is just accurate storytelling and also telling the full and complete truth,” Keaton said.