UNC women’s basketball signee Destiny Adams wanted to wear the words "Black Lives Matter" on her warm-up shirt before games for Manchester Township High School.
After preparing a speech with her argument for wearing the phrase, Adams presented her case to the Manchester Township Board of Education. Without deliberation, the Board denied her request because the members thought the warm-up shirts, which say Manchester Township on them, would seem to represent the entire community.
Adams, who is from Manchester Township, New Jersey, is the No. 4 wing in the 2021 class and the No. 20 player in her class overall, according to ESPN. The high school senior was the first commit in the Tar Heels' 2021 class.
The women's basketball signee's request was denied, but that hasn't stopped her from continuing to fight for racial justice. And she doesn't plan to stop her activism when she comes to UNC this fall.
North Carolina women’s basketball head coach Courtney Banghart said she was drawn to Adams right away.
“She’s a relentless competitor,” Banghart said. “Off the court, she is all things opposite. She is compassionate and kind and sweet and thoughtful and reserved.”
Destiny’s mother, Lisa, agreed that her daughter is usually reserved. She said that until just last year, Destiny was scared to walk across the gym on game day because she didn’t want people looking at her.
So, facing the school board to make her case was a big step for the high school senior.
“She is maturing into this young lady who is being an activist,” Lisa said.
After hearing about the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests for racial justice, Adams became inspired to become an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I knew I wanted to do something and get involved and educate myself,” Adams said.
And that’s exactly what she did. With the support of those around her, including her high school principal and father, Dennis, Destiny prepared a speech to give to the Board.
Manchester Township's warm-up shirts are not a part of the official uniform. Instead, they are designed by the seniors each year and bought individually. Adams wanted to put Black Lives Matter on her shirt but made it clear that anyone on the team who was uncomfortable with wearing them would not have to.
On Jan. 20, Adams and both of her parents went to the Board of Education to present their case. Adams faced the Board first.
“This movement means so much to me, personally, as a Black woman in America,” Adams said in her presentation to the Board. “From our country’s origin, the Black population has been silenced and pushed aside.”
Her parents voiced their support as well.
“Destiny is finding her voice," Lisa said. "Her flame has been lit."
Dennis, who had to speak both as her father and principal, told the Board that allowing Adams to put Black Lives Matter on her shirt would show students of color that they were recognized.
“Supporting every student who walks through that door is very important,” Dennis said.
When the Board announced its decision, Adams was upset that her idea was rejected.
“I was obviously hurt — I took a lot of time writing my speech and trying to convince them,” Adams said.
But this disappointment had a silver lining. She received overwhelming support from her coaches, both current and future. Lisa said the decision left her daughter debating transferring schools for the remainder of her senior year, but the outpouring of support she received stopped her from doing so.
Leading up to the presentation, Banghart and Adams discussed her motivations behind writing the speech, and Banghart offered her assistance.
“I wanted to help her through the emotion of feeling so sad and let down,” Banghart said.
Despite having her request denied, the Board's decision went viral, and Adams said its ruling may have had a larger impact in spreading the Black Lives Matter message than if it had said yes. Adams continues to support her beliefs by wearing socks and tape on her wrists that say "Black Lives Matter."
“I learned that you can make a change no matter how hard it is,” Adams said. “I want people who look up to me to know I support this cause.”