Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Dr. Lorenza Pharram’s Message to CHHS

Charles Henderson High School held its Black History Program on Feb. 27 with guest speaker Dr. Lorenza Pharram giving a message of history and acceptance to the student body.

Pharram is a Phenix City native that holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration and management from Alabama A&M and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration from Troy University. He also earned his Doctor of Education from Alabama State University.

Pharram has served as an assistant principal and principal at various schools throughout the state for 16 years. He also served as Director of At-Risk and Alternative Programs at Russell County Schools. In 2015, he founded JLP Educational Consulting and authored his own book, “Nobody Told Them They Were Somebody: A Guide to Helping At-Risk Students.”

Pharram has had the opportunity to speak at Charles Henderson in the past and said that he always enjoys returning.

“It’s awesome,” Pharram said of being asked to speak at CHHS. “This is not my first time here and the faculty, staff and administration are great but so is the student body. I absolutely love them. They are always receptive and attentive and I just absolutely enjoy it every time I come.”

Along with discussing Black History as a whole, Pharram said he wanted to give the students of CHHS a message of accepting and embracing one another, regardless of differences.

“I wanted to give them the history of Black History Month but the overall message was for them to just embrace one another and to make certain that they understand that there is no Us vs. Them,” he emphasized. “I want to make certain we have the strongest Charles Henderson High School, the strongest Troy community, the strongest state and the strongest nation. It’s important to understand that it’s our differences that make us stronger.

“That’s why we’re as strong as we are as a nation, and that’s how we will continue to be strong; continuing to embrace our differences.”

Pharram relayed a story from his life that opened his eyes to the old adage of not judging a book by its cover. Pharram said that he and some friends were on their way to a gospel concert when their car broke down in the deep country. As time went on, numerous cars filled with people that Pharram said “looked like” him, passed him by with not so much as a look.

“This is in the middle of the summer, its hot and burning up,” he said. “Coming from a different direction a guy in a pickup truck comes and pulls over on the side of the road. I’m six-foot-5-inches and I had to look up to him and he had to be 300+ pounds, wearing overalls with red hair and freckles. He pulled over on the side of the road and asked me what was going on.”

Pharram said that he informed the red-haired stranger that his car had overheated and the man proceeded to grab a cooler from his truck and march down to a stream on the other side of the highway to fill it up and then he filled his radiator up with the water from the creek to get Pharram and his friends back on the road.

“That day certainly taught me a lesson that is still with me now,” he continued. “Don’t judge a book by its cover. Make certain that you are judging people by what’s on the inside, not what’s on the outside.

“You would think that if anyone would have stopped it would have been someone who dressed like me, someone that had the same tan as me, somebody that supposedly had the same values as me. Here you have someone that wasn’t from my neighborhood and someone not from my community, that didn’t go to my school and on the outside didn’t have anything in common with me, yet his heart was right. Many times the mistake is made when we look at individuals and think that their outside appearance means we don’t have anything in common with them. Make sure you are not making that same mistake, Charles Henderson. Make certain we aren’t judging books by their covers but we are embracing everybody because that is where our strength lies and that is where our strength comes from.”

Pharram also stressed the importance of learning of Black History and said that it benefits everyone to do so, no matter the color of their skin.

“For a long time, the history and the heritage of African Americans was kind of hidden and often times suppressed,” he pointed out. “So, one of the quotes I give the students is, ‘If an individual does not know where they come from, they lose inspiration in themselves.’ If they don’t know their history and understand, ‘These are my ancestors and individuals that look like me. They did it, I can do it.’

“If they lose that inspiration it hinders them and it hurts them, but once we share our history and they see how these individuals did what they did with little to nothing, they begin to see the inspiration and see that they can do it, as well. It helps them to achieve and stop thinking less of themselves and that they are somehow inferior or less than an individual. It helps everyone. It helps he school, it helps the students academically and it helps them in all spectrums.”