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Voices of the MomentBlack student-athletes in Grizzly Athletics share their vision for a brighter future for all.
Photos by Tommy Martino
Hometown: Forest Lake, Minnesota
Sport: Women's Soccer
I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. The death of George Floyd was sadly something that needed to happen for this world to see the racial injustices that are happening today. Textbooks tell us that the movement to end racism started in 1954 and culminated in 1968. As you can tell from recent events, racism is still a major issue that cannot be abolished by a stroke of a pen. This moment means a lot to me because it is a time for all of us to unite and take the appropriate steps to end racism. It’s a time for our community to accept that they have not experienced the racist and hurtful words Black people have endured for so long. It’s a time to listen and ask a person of color how it is like being Black in a predominantly white society. The best conversations I have had with my white friends started with them just sitting down and listening about the experiences I have had. It meant a lot to me because it showed that they cared about me and the injustices happening. We do not want a pity party, but to be heard and treated equally. It can be as simple as starting a conversation.
Hometown: Calabasas, California
Sport: Men's Basketball
The activism surrounding the movement, and the aftermath of George Floyd’s death have made me pay closer attention to the political climate. Watching these events across the country is striking. Coach DeCuire recently called the team in for a special discussion about the importance of voting. He was instrumental in conveying the importance of voting and shared with teammates the details of how to register to vote. It’s easy to focus on only your life and wonder if one vote, one voice really does make a difference – but the BLM movement and the attention on voting, especially for young people, has felt extremely important and timely. Racism is taught, and I think that idea, which has been the story for generations, is on the ballot. After talking to my parents in California, I decided to register to vote in Montana because I think my voice and my vote will mean more here.
Hometown: Sacramento, California
Major: Public Health
Being a Black man in Missoula can feel like walking around with a target. I’m faced with a discrepancy that a lot of Montanans aren’t faced with – the color of my skin. Even supporting what I feel is right can feel “other” or flawed. That’s why the Black Lives Matter movement means so much to me. The police brutality and racially motivated violence against Black people must stop. I wish people would keep politics aside and just listen. We are pleading for our lives. We don’t want to be better than another race. We just want to be treated the same. Everywhere I go, eyes are glued to me as if people have seen a ghost. It’s a strange and sometimes scary feeling. People who make nasty looks at me don’t see that I’m a public health major or my high GPA. They don’t see that I worked hard to graduate college in three and a half years, and I’m planning to pursue my master’s degree. They also don’t see a Black man who is on the UM Athletics Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the University and trying hard to move the needle for justice. I feel I will be disrespecting my people if I didn’t use the platform I have for change.
Hometown: Fresno, California
To me the Black Lives Matter movement means standing up for the voices that aren’t heard and have been silenced for so long. There have been so many deaths of Black individuals that have gone either unnoticed or unexplained. The justice system is corrupt and needs to be exploited in order for people to see the truth. Unfortunately, it took the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 to help stem the movement in 2013 and the death of George Floyd for the world to finally understand it. Racism is a learned behavior; it’s a disease that our society has normalized. This is just the beginning of what I hope will be a turning point. I would like to see the BLM movement thrive and am hopeful that it helps bring along other minority groups to have a voice in the future. The nation’s Pledge of Allegiance includes justice for all. Frankly, that simply isn’t true. There is still a lot of work to be done. Black Lives Matter today, tomorrow and every day after that.
Hometown: Dublin, California
Major: Business Management
Sport: Men's Basketball
The movement to me is a wake-up call to those who have been complacent. To me it’s a call to action. The overarching message that I’ve resonated most with is that it’s not enough to just “not be racist.” You have to actively fight against racism whenever you get a chance, however uncomfortable or hard that is. Silence is permission. Every time you witness it and choose to turn a blind eye you’re an enabler, you are allowing the problem to persist. We must be willing to make people a little uncomfortable. I think the hardest part about this for me is that I have been blind to the truth of how deeply embedded racist ideals are in America. There are so many people across this nation who feel as if BLM isn’t justified in their movement. Change needs to happen and it’s up to the young people.
Hometown: Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
This moment symbolizes a turning point in America for me. This moment is a reckoning – the changing of a system that has been made to keep certain groups of people under, specifically Black people. Choosing to ignore this movement, to me, means that you don’t see a problem with the way Black people are treated in this country. Ignoring this movement means that you are oblivious. At the very least, I hope real change comes from this movement – beyond social media posts, but real systemic change. I hope that people really take the time out to educate themselves on these issues that are going on. Don’t jump to make excuses for what continues to happen to Black men and women. Don’t be so quick to try and justify what Black people are going through. Seek to understand and truly be a part of the solution. I just hope in the end, BLM provides American people a better understanding of the struggles of being Black in America and encourages people to become part of the solution that makes this country truly equal for all. The way it is promised.