About this event
On Thursday, August 27 we explored the role of activist athletes and the struggle for social and racial justice. From Paul Robeson to Althea Gibson, from Muhammad Ali to Maya Moore, from Colin Kaepernick to Megan Rapinoe, athletes have cast their lot with oppressed peoples and have spoken out for justice. Today, athletes are still organizing and speaking out for Black lives, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, democratic rights, Native sovereignty, and immigrant rights. This is a panel of athletes who have stepped up and knelt down.
This event was organized by the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley in collaboration with Athletes for Impact, Elect Justice, and Vote.org.
Read a summary of this event published in Berkeley News.
Akeishein: Today I choose to consciously breathe. Today I take a moment to inhale with intention. See, I've been holding my breath for a long time. Fear has had me in a choke hold, a headlock, pressure upon my chest showing up expectedly, unexpectedly. I've been a hostage in my own skin, weighed down by my own crown. Fight or flight. Don't talk too loud. Fight or flight. Don't wear your hair out too big. Fight or flight. Don't have a son built with the stature and made in the image of God. Fight, fight, fight is what I'm telling my adrenaline gland that's been triggered too many times, causing my airway to dilate in order to provide the muscles with oxygen that it needs to fight the danger that I face or flee from it. So you telling me that's the only time I choose to actively breathe? Well, today I will consciously breathe. No, every day I will breathe with intention because it is by design that the system is set up to slowly take our breath away.
Akeishein: I will take the biggest inhale and blow out against every lie that has ever been spoken against us. The biggest inhale for every chain that has been placed upon us. The biggest inhale for the man that was just lynched today, because your last breath was the baton for my next. When the system fails us, we must create our own. Today, we heal.
Jesse Hagopian: Well, thank you so much, Akeishein Wells for those powerful words. Akeishein as the rapper, singer and actor. Her poem is titled Breathe with Intention and is available on the album Defund the Sheriff. Her newest recording is a single EP and the video titled Feels. Both recordings are available on iTunes and Spotify and YouTube. Her words remind us of the power of breath. She said, "This system is set up to take our breath away." She said, "We should take the biggest inhale for the man that was just lynched today." So I want to invite you all to take that big inhale in recognition of our dear brother, Jacob Blake, and feel the power of everyone of us here together in this space demanding justice and exhale all the trauma that we have built up by seeing these horrific videos of police violence. I want to invite you all now to inhale and exhale out.
Jesse Hagopian: Let's take one more breath together. Thanks everyone. So I want to let you know that Saudi Garcia will translate in Spanish on the telephone line listed in the Facebook and YouTube comments sections. [foreign language 00:08:55]. So my name is Jesse Hagopian. I'm a core member of the Athletes for Impact team, one of the sponsoring groups for today's event. I also teach high school ethnic studies. I'm the co-editor of the book Teaching for Black Lives and also the co-editor with Denisha Jones of the forthcoming book, Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice. I'm on the national steering committee of the Black Lives Matter at School coalition and I'm also a little league baseball assistant coach. I want to welcome all you anti-racist sports fans out there and social justice warriors. I'm excited to get to turn it over soon to an all-star lineup of athletes to talk about these issues today that are so relevant.
Jesse Hagopian: This panel is Rise Up for Justice, Black Lives and our Collective Future Series. Today's session is Activist Athletes Elect Justice, and this can be our own virtual social justice tailgate party today with many of my favorite high school, college, and pro athletes coming together for this discussion. I want to first introduce you to the partners that made today possible. This event is in collaboration with Athletes for Impact, Elect Justice, vote.org and Revolve Impact. It's the second program in the new live stream series Rise Up for Justice, Black Lives and our Collective Future. Today we will explore the role of activist athletes and ongoing struggles for social and racial justice. I want to tell you just a little bit about each of these sponsoring organizations. Athletes for Impact is a vehicle for athlete activism. It was founded in 2016 and it's become a vital resource for athletes across all sports, across the country, across the world to be part of a growing intersectional movement for justice.
Jesse Hagopian: Elect Justice is a new model for voter engagement and turn out that integrates sports and music and culture with community organizing and research and technology to voters most forgotten and impacted by violence. This live stream is being co-produced by the all-star battery of the Othering and Belonging Institute and Revolve Impact. Revolve Impact is a movement-driven social change agency that offers forward-thinking solutions to some of the most pressing social justice issues of our generation. The Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley brings together researchers and organizers and stakeholders, communicators, and policy makers to identify and eliminate the barriers to an inclusive, just and sustainable society in order to create true transformational change. So before I turn it over to this amazing panel in this timely moment, I just want to say that we are truly in the struggle for our lives, and it has been incredible to watch whole teams now striking to support Jacob Blake.
Jesse Hagopian: I think what's happening in the WMBA is breathtaking, the NBA, but I have to say I've never been more proud of my Seattle Mariners than with the stand they took yesterday. That comes with the fact that I was at game five of the 1995 Division Series Championship when Edgar hit the double to score Ken Griffey Jr. from first base to beat the Yankees, okay? But yesterday the Mariners surpassed that moment in my mind when they refused to play in honor of Jacob Blake. Really, from Mohammad Ali to Maya Moore, from Colin Kaepernick to Megan Rapinoe, athletes have long cast their lot with oppressed people and have spoken out for justice and today, athletes are still organizing and speaking out for black lives, LGBTQ rights, women's rights, democratic rights, native sovereignty, immigrant rights and this panel of athletes who have stepped up and knelt down.
Jesse Hagopian: This is a panel of athletes that have spoken out with powerful words and even painted powerful images on themselves to further this movement, which you'll hear about more soon. So it's time to talk about how we create transformational change and rip up the roots of institutional racism. We know that many companies and pro sports leagues have mouthed the words Black Lives Matter, but the task before us is to make those words a reality in this world by building a sustained movement, undo institutional racism and oppression. I'm thrilled now to get to introduce you to the people's sports writer, my dear friend, Dave Zirin, who has long chronicled the intersection of sports and social justice, and he will be moderating today's amazing panel.
Jesse Hagopian: David Zirin is the sports editor for The Nation magazine and besides coauthoring Things That Make White People Uncomfortable with Michael Bennett, he's also the author of Jim Brown: Last Man Standing, and the John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World. He also hosts a popular weekly podcast Edge of Sports, and he co-hosts the radio program The Collision: Sports and Politics with Etan Thomas. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @EdgeofSports. Dave, take it away.
David Zirin: I'll take it. Pass me that baton. Thank you so much, Jesse. But man, that 1995 Mariners story, you've gotten a lot of mileage out of that over the years, sir. Okay. I know people out there don't want to hear from me. You want to hear from our panelists. So let me introduce them so we can get started and hear what they have to say about this remarkable moment at the intersection of sports and politics. First and foremost, we have Michael Bennett, veteran defensive end who's retired from the NFL. He was a three time pro Bowler, pro Bowl MVP, Super Bowl champ, two time NFC champion. He's the author, along with me, I'm so proud to say, of a book called Things That Make White People Uncomfortable. Michael wanted to call it Things That Make White People Uncomfortable at Dinner. I sometimes think about that. He is also a member of Athletes for Impact, an inclusive and global network of athletes committed to change. His Instagram is @Mosesbread72. His Twitter is @Mosesbread72.
David Zirin: I'm so happy we have Rosalie Fish, a remarkable track and field athlete with us. Rosalie Fish is a native American runner, a member of the Cowlitz tribe, a student athlete at Iowa Central Community College. She won three state titles in track at the 2019 WIAA State track and field event hosted at Eastern Washington University. As a senior at Muckleshoot Tribal School, Fish made international headlines when she painted a red hand print over her mouth, the fingers extending across her cheeks, to honor the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women. Fish is also a member of Athletes for Impact, an inclusive and global network of athletes committed to change. Her Instagram is RosaliefishX, and she's not on Twitter, which actually speaks very well for her.
David Zirin: We also have Janelle Gary with us. Janelle is a sophomore at Central Washington university and a member of the black student union. In 2017, as a senior at the legendary Garfield High School in Seattle, she was a member of the softball team where she and her teammates decided to take a knee at the state finals to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Now the team received some major backlash, especially being the only inner city team there. In that same year, and this was such a motivating force for them to do this, there was a woman named Charlene Miles, a 30-year-old pregnant mother who was murdered by Seattle Police. Janelle and three other high schoolers formed an activist group named New Generation. She's currently working with New Generation helping to organize Black Lives Matter protests and speaking out at rallies and other events. So happy to have her here. That's Janelle Gary.
David Zirin: And last, but certainly not least whatsoever, we have Andrea Hailey from vote.org. She's the CEO of vote.org. If you don't know what vote.org is, it's the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan voting registration and get out the vote tech platform in America. Andrea has 19 years of experience in get out the vote operations and campaigns. She's a recognized expert on civic engagement and a staunch defender and promoter of democracy. Goodness knows, we need those these days. She sits on the board of NARAL and Bend the Arc. She serves on the leadership council of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and is a member of the Society of Fellows for the Aspen Institute. Her Instagram is @AndreaEHailey. That's H-A-I-L-E-Y and @votedotorg with the dot spelled out. Votedotorg. Her Twitter is @andreaehailey or @votedotorg with the D-O-T spelled out. Hello, everybody. Good to talk to you all. Ooh, I almost did that in one breath. That was my goal, but I couldn't do it.
David Zirin: Well, we have so much to talk about, there's no reason to delay whatsoever. I mean, when we planned this event, we had no idea that the worlds of sports and politics would collide to such an incredible volcanic degree as they have in the last 24 hours. So I first wanted to go around and just ask everybody this question, and I'll start with you, Michael. I mean, we now have this sports strike wave for racial justice taking place. What was your reaction when you heard that the Bucks and then other teams subsequently would not be playing?
Michael Bennett: I was amazed. I thought it was very rare that capitalism and politics actually mix and didn't think that the NBA would be the first pro sports league to actually cancel games, or the players would actually have that type of power, that much power. I think it shows that, to me, people have power and the players have power and this nation has the power to look at what's happening in the black children. I'm like, "Wow, this is just amazing to know that these athletes know the power that they have with their voice and being able to articulate what they really, really mean and what they care for and what their principles are." It just shows that we are a collective group of people who have a voice, and I think we need to continuously use it and show people that we're more than athletes.
David Zirin: Rosalie, what were your thoughts as it went from the NBA to the WNBA, to major league baseball, to major league soccer, to Naomi Osaka, the tennis star? What were your thoughts yesterday as this all cascaded?
Rosalie Fish: I thought that it was such a brave move in the first place to acknowledge, first of all, that there are some things that are bigger than basketball. There are some things that are bigger than you, right? It really was actually very touching and inspiring to see it go from the NBA and then watch all of these other inspired teams realize that this is not about who I play for, or even what sport I play. This is about my humanity and who I care about and who needs the spotlight right now. Honestly, I was very appreciative and very humbled to see all of these professional teams for once acknowledge and decide to put that spotlight on the people who need it.
David Zirin: Janelle, what were your thoughts, particularly as somebody who took such a courageous stand as a high school student and that being at the level of high school sports, and then seeing it explode across professional sports?
Janelle Gary: Yeah. I was absolutely amazed just because before, when I did do that in high school, taking a knee, there was just so much backlash and people really not understanding. So now seeing it when you turn on the TV, instead of watching sports, you're seeing people out here demonstrating and showing their support for Black Lives Matter and as a black athlete and black woman, it's really amazing to see that people actually care about us and care about my people instead of just wanting to watch their favorite sports game. They're really out here just fighting for the cause. I feel like a lot of times they tell athletes, they have this thing of, "Don't get political," or, "Let's not talk about that." But I think it's amazing to finally see everyone come together. Especially when I saw baseball decide to go in with the boycott, being a very conservative sport, I think that was very important to see that it's not just the sports that mainly have African Americans.
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Janelle Gary: That's not just the sport that mainly had African American people playing, but other sports as well, who want to be a part of this movement and create change.
David Zirin: That's such a great point about baseball. Just a quick reminder, before we go to Andrea. We have a chat box, where if you out there have your own questions that you want to ask the panel, you can type it right in there and we will ask them. So, it's not just me throwing the questions out there. You can do it too. Just use the chat box. Andrea, I mean, obviously, we've got the election right in front of us, but now you have this sports strike wave for racial justice. Can you see these things connecting in a positive way? And what was your reaction as everything went down yesterday?
Andrea Hailey: I mean, absolutely. As a black woman, I was really excited to see everyone taking a stand yesterday. I know that when athletes take a stand, it makes room for other people to also join in. And I think it really highlights and puts a spotlight on the issues going on in our country right now that are so important.
Andrea Hailey: And as CEO of vote.org, I know it makes a huge difference when we have moments like the one we're in right now. We see an increase in traffic on the site. We see an increase in people registering. We see an increase in people asking for their absentee ballot.
Andrea Hailey: So I think that people are really connecting the moment between protest and the ballot box. And so, we know athletes are our big leaders in their communities and that other people follow suit. And we can literally see the metrics of that at vote.org. So, yesterday on both a personal and professional level; it gave me a lot of hope and it gave me a lot of excitement towards where a movement is going. And I think that overall it makes space for everyone to join in.
David Zirin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Michael, I want to build on what Andrea just said. I mean, you see the athletes, they take this stand in a bubble in Orlando and before you know it, it's hitting other sports. Before you know it, it's impacting discussions across the internet and in... And at lunch tables. I mean, I've been on sports radio all day today talking about it in a way that was actually very progressive and forward-looking by the sports radio host. You don't usually think about that with sports radio. I mean, it started discussions in my wife's union about what they can do. I mean, the effects of it are so far reaching beyond just it being a sports issue. Why do you think athletes have that kind of impact? Why do you think it has that kind of catalytic effect where it starts these discussions across the board?
Michael Bennett: I think people romanticize or are with the way things that athletes can do with their bodies. Just things that people can't... These fantasies to be able to jump as high as LeBron James can. To be able to run as fast as Usain Bolt. To do what Maya Moore does.
Michael Bennett: So, people are in awe of their athletic ability. And I think when you used to that athletic ability being used as a branding tool to sell things, you used to that. And I think when finally, when those athletes use their bodies and their voices as political tools or use their voices to amplify what's happening around the world, it makes headlines because these, as you see, LeBron James has 125 million followers versus the NBA may have one million people watching it.
Michael Bennett: So they... These athletes have big platforms and to be able to use these platforms and the way that media is set now, and the medium of people and being able to have these viral things happen, it's just a perfect... The stars are aligned for these voices to be amplified the way that they do. And I think athletes have always had that voice. If you look back in the past and when things were happening around the world. And I think it's kind of crazy.
Michael Bennett: And now it's four years and, they're doing this or this and getting caught. If we look at retrospect of the time, if we looking at that time, when there wasn't a lot of people and it was backlash, as she said earlier, and nobody wanted to be like that. And now, it's like we fast forward and everybody's doing it. And I think the world has just had its share of enough is enough and it's time to make a stance on humanity. And I think athletes have that ability because of what they could do to have that voice.
Michael Bennett: They're the voice of a lot of campaigns. They're the voice of Nike. They're the voice of Adidas. They're the voice of T-Mobile. And if you Shaq, you're the voice of Papa John's, which I think there's no coming back from Papa John's. But at the same time, the athletes are the voice for a lot of different things. And for... To be the voice of humanity, I think that's the biggest thing that we all can do.
Michael Bennett: And I think if we look at where things are going and we look at the way the high school athletes are doing, collegiate athletes. It's just a time for... We're taking away from the title of being broken, from the system of being the athlete is this thing that's not a part of society to now bringing athletes as full humans. And I think that's the thing that is changing this whole thing. I think for a while, human... Athletes were seen as this different type of human. And now, we're connecting back to just, "No, we're not that." "I'm a black man." "I'm a black woman." "I'm a trans." "I'm this" "I'm that." "This is what I am." "I'm not just an athlete, I'm more." And I think that's what is making this thing be so magnified.
David Zirin: Hmm. I mean Rosalie, you're of course not LeBron James, only one of us is. And yet, even without the sponsorships, the glare, you raised awareness on an international level about murdered and missing indigenous women. An issue that gets, I mean next to no coverage or discussion. Why do you think athletes have that ability to amplify this issue?
Rosalie Fish: Can you repeat the last part of that question for me really fast?
David Zirin: Oh, why do you think that athletes contain that power to amplify those kinds of messages that otherwise aren't heard?
Rosalie Fish: I think especially in this time, right. I think it's really important to acknowledge that athletic activism is only just now becoming popular. While it's always been a thing, and while athletes have been advocating for their communities and for their causes for a long time, just like one of the other athletes said, and me personally, "We have definitely faced some kind of backlash for advocating."
Rosalie Fish: And so I think this is now a new age, where this upcoming generation, and really just the transformative justice that's been going on. So, society has realized that we need to view athletes as more than just athletes and as people. And people who have come from homes, from families and communities that are facing issues. Athletes even, that have to go home to these issues after competing on the track or on the court. And I think it's just almost like also when other athletes were saying where, "Enough is enough."
Rosalie Fish: I also believe that people are finally beginning to realize and think empathetically in our shoes, and really just empathize with the fact that we do both. Right. And that never goes away. Who we are and where we come from and the issues that we face every single day. They don't go away when we put on our track spikes, or our basketball shoes. And I think that's really been touching people, the fact that we have to, so vulnerably say, "Yes, I'm an athlete, but I will not let you ignore the fact that this is what I deal with every day." It's something that takes a lot of courage, a lot of bravery and a lot of vulnerability. And I really do think that the fans of sports are, are empathizing. And they're starting to see that this is not just sports, but it's a platform and we're going to use that platform to amplify voices.
David Zirin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Janelle, I'm wondering if you agree with that, as a young person, that there's been this generational shift where, as you know, it used to be, athletes were told to just shut up and dribble, and there's of course a deeply racist edge to that kind of a statement. Do you feel like there's a shift now where people are like, want to hear what athletes have to say and want to be more than entertained? Have we reached a breaking point where we're now looking at athletes more as citizens than we are as just entertainment?
Janelle Gary: Definitely. And I think that's just... It comes with, I think, athletes realizing after, once they take that Jersey off, they have to go back to real life and having that fear of getting shot by the police or being stereotyped every day. I think they finally realized that, "yes, I have this Jersey on and yes, I'm here to play a sport." "Yes, I'm here to win games for you and I'm here to make money for you, but at the end of the day, I am also black and I'm also human and there're injustices that I'm going through, my people are going through, family and friends." And I think just with, even Colin Kaepernick years ago really had a spark for young people like myself. To see someone sacrifice their career for the sake of their people, and to make sure that we continue to fight, and we're not done yet.
David Zirin: Yeah. You're part of generation Kaepernick. I think there's a group of young athletes who came up, and were entirely shifted in terms of your perspective about sports. I mean, Andrea, in the advocacy that you do, do you see that athletes can have this outsized impact?
Andrea Hailey: Absolutely. I think athletes at every level can have outsize impact, whether it's high school, college, professional. The size and magnitude of platform many athletes have is really impactful for encouraging people to register, and encouraging people to vote. I think that speaking out on social issues, we've seen this in our nation's history before, right. And we've seen athletic activism in the sixties really lead on different movements. And I think that, absolutely, it has a large scale impact.
Andrea Hailey: I think that when you talk about, say campus engagement, with young athletes too, on college campuses. We know that often college athletes are the ones on campus who are looked up to by peers. And so saying, making big statements like, "We're going to have teams get to 100% registration" or something like that, models the kind of community behavior that everyone can join into. And so, yes, absolutely. Athletes using their platform have a huge impact and doing so in this moment in time can help build a better and healthier democracy.
David Zirin: Yeah. We see right now that this struggle is quite understandably centering the question of racial justice, centering the question of racist police violence. But I wanted to start with you Michael, and ask the question, do you think that the struggle that you're seeing right now has the power also to increase equity across the board? Like for LGBTQ athletes, for women athletes, for athletes who are Latinex, indigenous. Does this have the ability to have a ripple effect to not be only a struggle around black liberation?
David Zirin: You get that Michael?
Michael Bennett: Can you hear me now?
David Zirin: Yes.
Michael Bennett: Sorry. Yeah, I think you went out for a second, yeah. Sorry about that.
David Zirin: Did you hear that question, Michael?
Michael Bennett: Yeah. So, do I think that is... I think, it has to be that. If it's not that, then it isn't going to have the longevity that it needs to have. Because I think the intersection and things that are happening around the world are important to really moving the needle to change.
Michael Bennett: Because we have to think of ourselves as inclusive and being able to take on the struggle of everybody. I think it just makes it more powerful. I think it goes from a group to a global uprising. And I think that's the important part of being inclusive. Because I think when we inclusive, we have a sense of empathy. We have a sense of understanding of what everybody else is experiencing. And I think when we break down the barriers between like, which struggle is more, trying to rank the struggles and saying, "this one is more important because of this," I think it has this infighting.
Michael Bennett: And then we get unfocused about what we're supposed to be fighting, because all of us are trying to fight for equality, all of us are trying to fight for everything that's happening around the world. We all are in the same boat. We're all human beings who want to exist, who want to end poverty, who want to end hunger.
Michael Bennett: And I think, if these things are collective in sports, if men in sports aren't talking about the injustices that are happening in the women's sports, then there is no true movement because then we become the absolute, we're only thinking about ourselves. And I think that if we're only thinking about ourselves, there is no growth in that. And I think we have to constantly break that barrier, the ego of now, this is just, it's more important.
Michael Bennett: So, I don't know, I just feel like it's important, it's the only thing that can really make us move forward. And even when we talk about voting, sometimes we say, "Oh a vote doesn't change anything." But we know that, from history, that voting is important, because it's like, we're going to have to be organic, and we know it has to be political when we making these strides to change. What is structural and what is the change, what is happening in our local communities. It takes both. And I think the intersectional things are important to making this change.
David Zirin: Yeah. Rosalie, I wanted to ask you the same question. Do you think that the struggle that we're seeing right now has the power to have an electric current effect and increase equity for other oppressed groups, both inside and outside of sports?
Rosalie Fish: Yeah, absolutely. I would say that this current Black Lives Matter Movement has already actually brought attention to other intersectional groups. Like for example, I personally... Down in Seattle, I would go to a Black Lives Matter protest and the next day there'll be a protest against ICE and I'd see the same people there. Right?
Rosalie Fish: It's all about solidarity between groups who are facing parallel struggles. And that's exactly why, especially as an indigenous person, I need to be there for Black Lives Matter. I need to be there for ICE. I need to be there for trans rights. I need to be there for anybody who needs support, because it's not really about who has the attention, who has the spotlight. It's about who's unified, who's bringing power to each other. Because when we amplify each other's voices, we're that much louder, we're that much stronger together.
Rosalie Fish: And I absolutely already see the Black Lives Matter Movement now amplifying other voices. I'm seeing them even empower black women and bringing attention and the spotlight to Briana Taylor and her story and bringing the spotlight to black trans women and what they're going through. And it's really just a means of not letting go of that. And knowing that black and indigenous struggles, they can be parallel as well. I personally know on the reservation, the police brutality on my reservation as well. And that's exactly why I need to be there. And I'm seeing that reciprocated as well.
Rosalie Fish: And I'm really hopeful to see what change that brings because we're so much stronger together.
David Zirin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Janelle, I did want to ask you the same question about the capacity for this upsurge that's happened, not just in the last 24 hours, but we really, we can bring it back anywhere. The Darren Wilson's killing of Michael Brown, or if we want to put it at Kaepernick taking a knee, or if we want to put it at the police killing of George Floyd. Wherever we want to put it, do you see it having the capacity to lift all boats if you will, to everybody who feels the sting of oppression.
Janelle Gary: We definitely saw that when the Redskins decided to finally change their name. I think that was a moment when we were like, "Wow, it's not just about Black Lives Matter. It's about changing everything for everyone across the board.
Janelle Gary: I'm also in Seattle and I've gone to protests myself and you do see a lot of people coming together in solidarity. People having their flags, tying them together, saying, "I see you, I support you". And black people are doing that as well. It's also started a lot of conversations of that intersectionality, again, of black woman, trans, and just mental health as well. I think this is going to continue to not only uplift and talk about black issues, but come in and bring in other issues as well, that's also going on in America.
Janelle Gary: And I think this is just the beginning of what else can be done. Cause when we think of black liberation, it's also for all. When we think it'll be quality it's for everyone, it's not just about black people. It's about everyone else and all the other minorities. And I think for the first time in history, we have seen all minorities come together and actually have a fight and be together and say, "Enough is enough." Which is very important because throughout history, they've tried to separate us, as minorities, because they know the power that we have together. And I think right now we're witnessing power-in-the-making to help take down all the injustices around us.
David Zirin: Andrea, I know you hear it in your work, where people say, "Oh, if the democratic party shows too much solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement, it's going to cost them votes." "It's going to push people to the other side." "It's going to keep Trump in power." All of these things that say that there's going to be some sort of price that's paid for supporting this historic struggle. What do you have to say to people who say that we have to tamp things down because of the elections?
Andrea Hailey: Vote.org is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan organization. But having said that, I think we've seen just an increase with every movement with people out in the streets that occurs. We see an increase in interest and action on our sites. So that tells me, in 2016 a hundred million Americans did not participate or vote. And now on any given day at vote.org, engagement is up 700 to 1000% on our site. And so, what I'm seeing is that, counter to any narrative about it exhausting people, I think what is happening, is that people are really feeling invigorated to participate, not just because of the national election, but because of the local elections that are occurring too. If you want a police chief held accountable, you're going to have to have a mayor, you're going to have to have DA's, you're going to have to have local officials that really represent the people.
Andrea Hailey: And so I think that, that message has been heard. And we know that several of these elections across the country are decided by just a handful of votes. And so what I'm seeing is a younger generation show up, I'm seeing coalitions be repaired in our country. And I have not seen disinterest because of this moment, if anything, we're seeing the exact opposite. And of course, there are a ton of obstacles this year. We're in the middle of a pandemic. There're all sorts of things going on when it comes to civic engagement, a lot of in-person moments have been missed. But I'm watching people innovate in real time and use digital resources like vote.org to participate. We watched, I think during the height of the protest, right after the murder of George Floyd, over 300,000 people registered through the site.
Andrea Hailey: And so I think that that shows that if anything, the story of this year is resiliency. Resiliency of the American people, resiliency, of the American voter. I think there's a groundswell of activity. I think you can see that through the movement. I think people all over this country are looking to participate. What we really are seeing isn't partisan so much these days as it is...
Andrea Hailey: There are people out there who are looking to suppress all of this action, all of this movement, and voting as well. And then there are people who are looking to come together, and build something new. And so I think that the energy behind people who want to come and build something new is stronger than the energy of people who are spending every day trying to suppress...
Andrea Hailey: But I think that you'll find people of all backgrounds, and on the side of trying to build something new, and to make sure that we have a democracy that's starving. I think people get it. This is not a fire drill in our country. If we want a healthy and thriving democracy, we're all going to have to lean into it. And we're all going to have to bring our skills and our platforms and everything else to make that happen. I think people are seeing that.
David Zirin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Your mouth, God's ears, huh? Oh, jump in please.
Michael Bennett: Oh, no. I was saying that's the fear. I feel like that's the fear of the world, is when everybody comes together collectively. I think the idea of keeping us divided, if we look at Fred Hampton, if we look at Malcolm X and Martin Luther King... If you start looking at all the people that were in these social movements, and once their brain starts to open up to the idea that these movements are inclusive, is usually when the change starts to happen. So, things that keep us divided...
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Michael Bennett: Usually when the change starts to happen. So things that keep us divided is what everybody wants. They hope that politics keep us divided. They hope that our color keeps us divided. They hope that our gender keeps us divided. They hope our love choices keep us divided. And then finally, when we aren't divided anymore, this is where the strength comes in.
David Zirin: And, by that question, I'll get back to you, Michael. I have a follow-up to that. But if I could just ask Rosalie the same question, like did when you made your stance, when you made your run, when your photo hit the airwaves, what was the response? Did you feel like it was a backlash response or was it a responsive support and solidarity?
Rosalie Fish: So all, at least via like virtually and online, all of my responses were relatively positive besides the few expected trolls here and there. But more than anything, when I receive the most backlash, this is actually in person when I have the red hand-print on me. Especially, the very first time at state championships. I had people snarkily say, "Nice war paint." They said like, "Oh, you have something on your face." I had a lot of in-person very passive, aggressive and jeering comments. But as far as online goes on, the people who make the effort to reach out to me, have been wanting to know more OR they've been looking how to support.
David Zirin: Yeah. Janelle, you as well, I know there was a ton of drama at Garfield in terms of the response both to the softball team, the football team. When you did what you did, did you feel like the response was bringing people together and unifying people, or was it people trying to divide?
Janelle Gary: Well, at state and playing softball and it's majority a white sport and to come in as an inner city school and it's people of color. And actually seeing black girls play the sport at state for the very first time, you can only imagine us taking the knee. People weren't happy with us. We initially did it because we wanted to show solidarity with our football team because our football team did it. And of course they were getting backlash. So we wanted to join in, in solidarity because we believe in the same thing.
Janelle Gary: I just remember playing our first state game and we had people in the audience yelling racial slurs to us, mocking us when we went up to bat. Calling us, "Oh, their goes the dark one," or, "Strike her out." Referring to us things like black Knight and things like that. It got so bad to the point one of my teammates, who was white, literally stopped her at bat and yelled at somebody in the crowd for saying something about us. It was very emotional. And it was the first time that I didn't feel like a human being. A lot of times you see it on TV, or I hear stories about people yelling at you in the crowd and act like you're an animal or something, but to actually experience that for taking a stance for something that I believe in. And I was really young at the time, it was definitely a shock for me.
Janelle Gary: And it's something that I'll never forget and it inspires me to share that story and continue to do what I do. And sit and protest during the national anthem, but it wasn't the best response, but continuing to do it, it was definitely a better response at school, of course. Just with the area that we're in, in Seattle. Of course, we had a lot more support, but going to state, and it was in Olympia. And the crowd of people who were there didn't have a real nice reaction to it.
David Zirin: Andrea, did you have an aha moment where you said, this athlete taking this kind of political stance is something that can have just a ripple effect beyond who they are and their individual fight? Any sort of experience like that?
Andrea Hailey: I would say that I think being a student of history and working with the Smithsonian, which did a lot of work around sports activism. Meeting John Carlos for the first time and hearing his story, I think I was aware of the power of the platform that athletes have. And earlier this year, seeing so many athletes stand up and start to speak out. And of course, I think last night was a pretty big moment watching a cascade of athletes come to the table to discuss these issues and to take a stand. I think that, I think my aha moment is really like not the recognition that it's important and that it can happen. I knew that, I think the aha moment is seeing now the momentum that's being built and the aha moment means we're not all out here doing this work alone. Everybody fully understands the power of their platforms and they're going to use them. And to me, that's really exciting.
Andrea Hailey: It means that we're going to have lots more people following, lots more people registering and requesting absentee and showing up, protesting, standing on the streets. I think that this is a really important moment that we're in. So I knew the power of the platform. I just didn't know... You never know, like is going to happen and to feel kind of what's happening right now. I think we're actually at an inflection point in our nation's history and we're living that history. We're living that aha moment. We're all going to look back one day. And I think no one wants to look back and say that they didn't leave it all on the field. And I think that, that's what we're seeing right now, is everyone standing up saying, "We're going to do this. We're going to take a stand. And enough is enough."
Andrea Hailey: And then what I'm mostly excited about too, is seeing the coalitions between men's and women's sports to see it's everyone. And I think that there's maybe greater acknowledgement and coalition building than there has been in past generations. And that gives me a lot of hope for where we're going in the future.
David Zirin: We have a question from the audience, I'll start by asking Michael this, but I'm curious what you all think. The question's from Nila Zamiri, who wants to know, "How do we empower athletes to speak out while also protecting them from the kinds of repercussions that have been faced by athletes in the past, like Colin Kaepernick, Mahmoud, Abdul-Rauf in the NBA. Like, so how do we do that? I guess, how do we do that ethically, is my question. Like, how do we encourage people to speak out while also providing them solidarity, if their world falls down around their shoulders?" What do you think Michael?
Michael Bennett: Something Andrea that said earlier that I draw interest in too, is when you work with the Smithsonian. And when you go to the Smithsonian, it's almost like athlete history kind of stops. As far as like activism, as far as like having it on a global scale and having the impact. If you go into the museum and it's you have baseball, you have 1960s. You have basketball and you have some of these things. So I feel like to protect the athlete, I feel like it's almost like a new thing because until Colin Kaepernick had happened in this generation, that was kind of the first taste of it. And I think how you protect the athlete, is what the NBA is doing. The league is getting behind it. I think it's important that these sports leagues are a part of the change that is kind of wanting to happen because we'd like to think of these sports league as these nonliving organisms and they exist, but they're almost parasitic because they take more than what they give.
Michael Bennett: And it's time for it to be changed. I think it's important that these leagues get behind their players because then that's how the player doesn't get ostracized. Because now, when somebody comes from LeBron James, they can't come from LeBron James, if they come for the NBA. If somebody comes for Maya Moore, that they come for the WNBA. And I think the NFL was kind of trying to get there, but it has to re-step that plateau of where it's made a political stance on that level, where it knows the league is behind its players as human beings, not just as products. And I think that's what we have to kind of, start to have some kind of segregation. Is to segregate the idea that players are not human beings and that this league it doesn't have any responsibility to its players' humanity.
Michael Bennett: I think we have to find a way to constantly amplify that message. And I think the leagues are setting a big example. If we look at the Major League Baseball, look at basketball, and we look at the WNBA and we look at women's soccer. These are the people that are showing us how to do it. And I think that's how you protect the athletes.
David Zirin: Rosalie. Do you have anything you want to add to that? Like how do we both empower and protect at the same time? How do we offer solidarity while at the same time, encourage people to really put themselves out there?
Rosalie Fish: So this question actually does apply to my situation personally, because I used face paint to represent missing and murdered indigenous women. And so my coach and I word for word scoured the rule books for Washington State Championships and Track and Field. And looked for any type of interpretation that could be used against me. And when it came down to it, we prepared for any type of backlash, any type of retaliation or any excuse that could be made to silence me.
Rosalie Fish: And it took, in all honesty, it just takes a lot of bravery and a lot of pre-planning. Scouring through those rule books, going word for word through those very long, 50 or more pages. But that way, I have been at once said that, "No, you can't wear the hand print." And I can say, "Show me in the rule book where it says that," I say, "Show me in the rule book where I wouldn't be allowed to. Or right where I specifically can not do this." And when it comes down to it, you have to be brave enough to stand your ground. And it's terrifying. And that's just, I think one of the things that comes with putting your community before yourself.
David Zirin: Janelle, I'd love your insight on this. I mean, because I'm sure you were in that position where you were talking to teammates about the importance of this. But yet, you also have to protect because maybe they're new to activism, maybe they're concerned about their friends or family and you have to help them navigate that.
Janelle Gary: Yeah, it's really just about sacrifice. Going back thinking about Colin Kaepernick and thinking what Michael Bennett just said, the NFL didn't back him up, but he still decided to sacrifice himself to start and make that change. And I took that inspiration to be like, "We need to sacrifice this right now and come together as a team." I was lucky enough to have my team to back me up. But even if I didn't, sometimes when it comes to sports, you have to be okay with having that backlash to be that person,§ to start something, to be the leader.
Janelle Gary: Because a lot of times like, again, what Michael said, we didn't really have anyone in sports until really Colin Kaepernick becoming that face for my generation. So there has to be someone to start something, to bring people together, to want to have that change. And I think because when you're that one person who does do that, I think the backlash won't be as harsh because you'll inspire other young people, like myself, to have your back to create that change.
David Zirin: Hmm. And Andrea, you're obviously building an organizational capacity. Do you think that can play a role in offering, like a support system for athletes who want to speak out, so they don't feel so isolated on the island?
Andrea Hailey: Absolutely. We've partnered with a lot of athletes and organizations and we have a partner in Coaches 4 Change at the college level. So we can definitely provide the voting information, voter tool-kits. We have iamvoteready.com, which provides tool-kits for student athletes, for companies, for all sorts of different people to be able to get involved in this civic moment. And we can definitely work with teams and work with individuals who want to take that step and lean in a little bit more to figure out what they can do in this moment in time. Especially, as it pertains to voting. So we are happy to do that and we're happy to speak out in support of our partners and happy to do anything it takes to support the athletes who are standing up very bravely in this moment. And I do echo what Michael said too, another way to protect athletes is to make sure that the organizations and the leagues are doing their part and also having the back of the athletes.
Andrea Hailey: And we're happy to speak to organizations and leagues and put pressure on in this moment because that we think that this is a pivotal, again, like I said before, a moment in our nation's history. And really I can't get across enough. It's just, this isn't a fire drill. This is the real thing, democracy is on the line and we all need to do our part. The hard part is that stepping out there, we all, like it was said before, have to sacrifice at times to step out there and to do what's right. This is that moment. So vote.org is here to provide any resources, information, help, and assistance in doing whatever we possibly can.
David Zirin: One of the things that I want to say is just, I think the four of you are our heroes, sheroes, whatever terminology we want to use. You've done so much to step up. And I think it helps people to hear the origin story of a hero. And I wanted to start with you, Michael, if you could say something about who influenced you or who set an example for you? Either in history or in terms of your family or friend a teammate that made you say I'm going to use this space to speak out for what's right.
Janelle Gary: Oh man. I feel like there's so many great people that influenced me. Historically, I know so many great people, but I guess I could choose, if I have to choose one, I think, besides my family... This is a hard question because I feel like there's so many people. I would say, I want to say Muhammad Ali, but I feel like that's such a cliche one because everybody kind of feels that way. I think for me it's... I think people like Angela Davis, I think for me, are people that I look up to, especially as a woman. I think like it's very rare that a man says, "Oh, this woman is somebody that I look up to as a hero." And I think that's important too, because women have taken political stance and have done things, especially as black women.
Janelle Gary: If we look back at the historical facts of what black women went through and even to bring life into this world as a woman inside of a system that wants to take your child and use it as a product. From keeping the seeds in their hair, to be able to grow sweet potatoes and to bring collard greens into this country so they could feed their children. So people like that, like Angela Davis, for me, is a powerful person because I look up to her because she took a risk. But at a time that when taking a risk could end up in death. I think now we'll take risk and the stakes are high, but back then the stakes were even higher. And I think she's somebody I look up to not only because of the risks, but also her intellect. I think her intellectual prowess is just so strong. When you hear her be able to articulate her message and have a historical context to everything she says.
Janelle Gary: I think for me, that's somebody that I look up to because I think it's important when you're taking on these struggles and you're having these conversations. When you have to have these rebuttals and to have the historical facts to back up your argument, only makes your argument stronger because what you're now arguing, you're own opinion, you're arguing facts. And I think that's important. Yeah.
David Zirin: Rosalie, I'd love to hear from you as well. Like who influenced you to say that this was something you were going to do?
Rosalie Fish: I think that I would definitely have to go straight to Jordan Marie Daniel. She ran in the Boston Marathon with the red hand-print before I did. She is from the Lakota tribe and she is a very outspoken indigenous advocate. Especially, for missing and murdered indigenous women. And an amazing marathon runner. And so I saw a photo of her with the hand-print and MMIW down her leg in Indian country today. And it really just shook me, how much that meant to me. Just seeing an image of another indigenous woman and a runner who was unapologetically stating what they cared for, stating that you will look at me and know this is what I care about. And you need to know about this too, right? You need to know about what's impacting me and just her courage. And also, like in a sense, her ferocity really touched me in a way that made me realize that I need to do more.
Rosalie Fish: Especially, being the only native American athlete at my meets. Showing up to meets alone as the single tribal school runner. It really made me feel like I wasn't alone anymore to see her. And since then, she's really taught me that no matter how I might feel about myself or how I might feel about doing something individually and personally. Every single thing that I do in each thing that I speak about, has the potential to make another indigenous athlete below me, a younger athlete, feel less alone. And that is a huge responsibility that I need to take.
David Zirin: I have to ask you a quick follow up. Have you gotten to have any contact with this amazing person who inspired you?
Rosalie Fish: Oh, absolutely. I actually reached out to her before I wore the hand-print, just out of mutual respect. I asked her permission to follow in her footsteps beforehand. And since then, she's actually been like an older sister to me. And I'm super blessed to still have her in my life and try to support each other in the best way we can.
David Zirin: That's beautiful. Sometimes people say you never want to meet your heroes because they could disappoint. But when they don't, it's a beautiful thing. All right, Janelle, same question to you. Your origin story, did you have somebody who influenced or motivated you to do what you did?
Rosalie Fish: Yeah, you actually spoke earlier of Jesse and try is definitely my hero, my mentor. Going to Garfield. He's a Garfield alumni as well, and he played baseball. So there's just so much that we had in common. And he was actually my first black teacher at Garfield. And I was a part of the first ever ethnic studies class that he taught. So Mr. and try just taught me so much of what it means to be black and how important it is to hear my history. Not only did he do that, he gave me a safe space where I felt like I could express myself.
Rosalie Fish: And I didn't feel like that dumb kid in the back of the classroom. He wanted to understand my process of thinking. And he helped push a lot of black students like myself. And he was also able to have me be aware of other events and injustices that were happening not only in the black community, but also all around the world. And if it wasn't for him, New Generation wouldn't even be here today. He was the one who let us know right away when Charleena Lyles, who was shot by Seattle police. Who was also Seattle public schools mother. I didn't even hear about it until Mr. and try came into class and told us about it. And we decided to have a protest in less than 24 hours with media coverage. And ever since then, we had him as our advisor for the group.
Rosalie Fish: And he has helped me with so many events and so many contacts. And he's always supported me if it's coming to a protest or us just talking on the phone or emailing. He always has something for me to do and he's always teaching me. And so I'm very grateful that my hero was someone that I actually met through the education system, because a lot of times you don't hear about yourself or get to have someone who looks like you. So I'm just blessed that I got to be so close to someone who I look up to.
David Zirin: Well, as a friend of Jesse's, I can tell you that the feeling is mutual and how much inspiration he's drawn from you and the folks who do the kind of work that you do. So that's a beautiful thing. And Andrea, what about yourself? Someone from the sphere of sports and politics, who's encouraged you to be you.
Andrea Hailey: Hmm. I would say from the... See you got me on the sphere of sports and politics. My answer is kind of cheesy and then I'll go into the second one. But the truth is that a lot of what motivates me to do this work and to stay in this work on a consistent basis, which is hard when you're fighting all these forces of suppression, is really just it's my family. My family is from Anderson, South Carolina originally. And both my grandfather and great grandfather fought in world Wars and came back and didn't have the right to vote. And it was always ingrained in me through my father and the rest of my family network that the right to vote is something that can very well be lost and taken away-
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Andrea Hailey: That the right to vote is something that could very well be lost and taken away very quickly, and that it wasn't that long ago that it was earned to begin with. So I think that that's really ingrained in me, this sense of purpose and mission every single day.
Andrea Hailey: And then my heroes are everyone who's showing up in this moment. Heroes are the organizers who are out there getting it done. My heroes this year are poll workers who are showing up and volunteering, because we know we have a poll worker crisis in this country and we need to be able to keep these locations open. My heroes are everyone on this panel, who's showing up and using their platform to really highlight what's happening in their communities, and who really realize the impact that that can have.
Andrea Hailey: So I think that I get really excited and get a lot of energy from seeing so many different people from all parts of this civic ecosystem stand up. Because I think that right now it's going to take a collective effort to make sure that we ensure our ability to protest, and ability to vote, and ability to hold people accountable, and the ability to dream of a new day where we have systems in place where this all isn't so hard to begin with. Where people can gain access to the ballot box without it being difficult. Where we have leaders that are truly serving the people they represent. All of these things.
Andrea Hailey: So yeah, y'all are my heroes every single day. It would be really scary to be in this position and to not see a panel like this occur. It would be really scary to not have these conversations happening. That would mean that no action was going to happen and change wasn't going to happen. So thank you.
David Zirin: That's a terrific note to go to the next part of this meeting. I want to invite on Mike de la Rocha, if I could. Mike, let me just first introduce him so folks know who I'm even talking about.
David Zirin: Mike is the co-founder and CEO of Revolve Impact. Mike de la Rocha is a strategist and musician, and really one of the most effective changemakers of our time. As a co-founder of Revolve Impact, he's behind several of the largest policy victories and cultural shifts in America, including Artists for 47, a coalition assembled to pass California's historic Prop 47 that has impacted more than 1.5 million people, and led to the largest record change effort in United States history. Co-founding Athletes for Impact, a global network of athletes committed to equity and justice. And executive producing Schools Not Prisons, the leading brand at the intersection of arts, culture, and activism. Mike de la Rocha, I give you the floor.
Mike de la Rocha: Thanks, Dave. I just want to say thank you to all the organizers for putting together such an important conversation so timely. So just thank you for everyone that's been a part of this from behind the scenes and front.
Mike de la Rocha: I just came up to really talk about Elect Justice. We've been planning this for months now, if not years. It's a new voter initiative that we're launching today with this series, that's combining the power of music, sports, and organizing to really drive voters of color out to the polls.
Mike de la Rocha: We know that all politics is local. Everything that happens on a national level always starts in some local community across this country. Whether we're talking about Ferguson or even what's happening right now currently in Wisconsin, our power and our ability really to transform our country always starts in our own backyard. That's why Elect Justice in particular is focusing on local issues that impact all of us. Whether we're talking about gun violence, or policing in prisons, healthcare, what have you, we're going to really address those issues that impact us so profoundly on a granular and on a local level.
Mike de la Rocha: Elect Justice is led by Athletes for Impact in collaboration with Community Justice Action Fund, which is the first and only black-led gun violence national organization, with Vote.org, Age Code, and Schools Not Prisons. Together, we're working with grassroots partners specifically in Arizona, California, Georgia, and Texas to reach historically underrepresented and I would argue ignored voters of color. Voters of color who in this election time and this election season, whether we're talking in local county elections or statewide elections or national, will be the deciding voice and vote in all of this stuff.
Mike de la Rocha: So we're going to be focusing on local races, such as different DA races. DAs and prosecutors ultimately hold the most power in this whole criminal legal system or chairs, school board members. But again, just talking about the things that impact us. But not just impact us, but that we have the power to actually hold accountable in our local neighborhoods.
Mike de la Rocha: Ultimately, the hope and the aim is to combine the power of music and sports to drive people out to action, to onboard them into local community organizing efforts, and ultimately to build power. So if folks are interested and want to get more involved, I'd encourage you to do so.
Mike de la Rocha: Now, the website just went live. It's www.electjustice.org. Join us in making your voice heard. Join us in doing everything humanly possible to hold not just police officers, but we would argue, the entire police, the culture of policing, and then these entire institutions and departments accountable for the continued killings of unarmed black and brown bodies. Join us in helping to figure out how together with our local grassroots partners, we can actually transform those systems and institutions that were designed to intentionally exploit and oppress a particular community.
Mike de la Rocha: I'm just really excited to just announce that Elect Justice is now up and live. And looking forward to do everything humanly possible, like was said earlier, arguably not just the biggest election in our lifetime, but in human history. So again, you can visit us at www.electjustice.org.
David Zirin: Nice. Is there an Elect Justice video that you'd like to show us?
Mike de la Rocha: Yeah, so we've got a video similar to what was played earlier that just shows the continued power of athletes in particular, that are seizing not just upon this moment, but seizing upon their platforms to stand up for racial justice and human rights. This is a video that's part of our launch today of Elect Justice.
Mike de la Rocha: (singing)
Speaker 1: No justice.
Speaker 2: No peace.
Speaker 1: No justice.
Speaker 2: No peace.
Speaker 1: No justice.
Speaker 2: No peace.
David Zirin: Wow, that was beautiful. We're about to close out the program with a poem. But before I introduce the poet, I just want to thank all the organizers of this event. I really want to thank the panelists who shared their stories, both personal and political, with us. I certainly hope people, when this is archived, they send it around to everybody they know, because I think this is such an education for this particular moment.
David Zirin: I also want to remind folks something that I know Michael Bennett says a great deal, that I want to amplify, which is that we have to remember that these athletes are not activists in a vacuum. That these athletes are stepping up precisely because people are stepping up in the streets. And there is a ricochet effect between what happens on the field and what happens off the field, but we should never get it twisted. It always starts with the actions of ordinary people who will never be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
David Zirin: It's like a mentor of mine once said, if the 1960s don't happen to Muhammad Ali, he becomes Cassius Clay, somebody who brought the showmanship of professional wrestling into boxing. It was precisely because of the black freedom struggle, and because of the antiwar movement, the anti-imperialist movement in Vietnam that made Cassius Clay Muhammad Ali, and made him the person we remember today. Athletes don't come down from Planet Awesome to tell us what to do. Athletes both give and they respond, and they also take in and learn from what we're doing in the streets.
David Zirin: Okay, that being said, I now want to introduce Rafael Jesus Gonzalez to close out the show. Rafael Jesus Gonzalez is a noted poet and visual artist. In 2017, he was honored as Berkeley's first poet laureate. Berkeley also honored him with a lifetime achievement award at the 13th annual Berkeley Poetry Festival in 2015. And he has not once, not twice, but thrice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Rafael is professor emeritus of creative writing and literature, and has taught at the University of Oregon, Western State College of Colorado, Central Washington State University, UTEP, University of Texas at El Paso, and Laney College in Oakland, where he founded the Mexican and Latin American studies department. I'm so proud to give to you the great Rafael Jesus Gonzalez.
Rafael Jesus Gonzalez: [Spanish 00:10:27]. Just to say that I was born and raised on the US-Mexican border in the area of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas. Consequently, I have two muses who speak in two different languages, in Spanish and in English. And all my works are in both tongues. It is an area that now is an area of great suffering, where the children are torn from their parents' arms and put into cages, their parents jailed.
Rafael Jesus Gonzalez: [Spanish 00:11:45]. Wake up, US America. When a ball player kneels upon the turf to protest for justice, when a bar-room song made sacred is played, he is vilified and fired. But when police take their knees to the necks of their victims, or shoot them, more often than not, it is called in the line of duty.
Rafael Jesus Gonzalez: Do we not see because we sleep, or are we blind like we like to portray justice? Unbind her eyes that she may see that her scales are out of balance, that she is not colorblind. And if she is, to correct it.
Rafael Jesus Gonzalez: In the vision of the Tao, black and white are equal, one no more of value than the other. But her scales are weighted to the white, all shades of black not counting much.
Rafael Jesus Gonzalez: Is it because we sleep? If it is only sleep, wake up, US America. If it is that we refuse to see, may the gods help us.
Rafael Jesus Gonzalez: So we are [Spanish 00:15:15]. So we are US America, and we are waking up. In all that has been said, what is the root of a courage, and what we do has been left unnamed. That is love. That is the root of compassion, without which there is no justice. It is love that is the root of a courage and a willingness to sacrifice and to confront injustice.
Rafael Jesus Gonzalez: We have to recognize that, because we are about to make, and we must make, and we are making. It's a revolution, and it's a revolution of the heart. If we did not love one another, if we did not love the earth and did not love life, what would we be fighting for? And why would we be kneeling on the ground and confronting the forces of hate upon the streets in Portland and Seattle, throughout the United States? Let us make sure throughout the world, because it is the earth that we're fighting for, for each other and for love.
Rafael Jesus Gonzalez: When we do, we confront those forces. We fight the force with exactly what they lack, love and joy. That is what we are to protect, the earth itself, each other, love, and joy. So let's make a revolution and let's make it now. [Spanish 01:26:50].
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