By Varun Maheshwari ’23, Staff Writer
Since the murder of George Floyd, many across the United States have expressed rage surrounding the systematic oppression of Black Americans. Nationwide protests and social media movements this summer addressed issues such as police brutality, oppression, and racism throughout the country. Despite the global pandemic, supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and protesters alike congregated with common goals: justice for the past, justice now, and reforms to provide justice in the future.
Many Davidson student athletes have participated in social justice movements. Whether attending protests, creating non-profit programs, partnering with associations to provide funding for certain people, or simply educating themselves and their local communities more, Davidson student athletes have done it all.
The four athletes mentioned below have been featured for their tremendous work towards bettering themselves and their communities. Davidson is an environment that is constantly growing, and the following athletes are four students driving the community toward greater equity.
Tavis Braithwaite ‘22, a junior on the Men’s Soccer team, has been heavily involved in activism, dedicating significant time and effort to achieving his goal of helping people better understand and be equipped to deal with the police. Last year, Braithwaite started a program called Safer Police Encounters. The program’s educational mission is two-fold. The first component is to educate people about their rights, what they can say when confronted by the police, and what police can say or cannot say, etc. The other prong will be to educate people about racism, systemic racism, Black history, and Black culture in America.
“I just wanna be able to open up the door to have these conversations,” Braithwaite commented. The program will partner with local elementary, middle, and high schools in Charlotte. “I’m aiming to go speak in West Charlotte, as that is more of an impoverished area,” Braithwaite added. “I think it’s super important to touch base with [marginalized individuals] there. To touch them at a young age is very important to me.”
Braithwaite has been working hard to get this program up and running, and his teammates have been very supportive. He mentioned that he hopes to partner with the college soon to give Safer Police Encounters a solid institutional partner.
A senior on the football team, Tyler Chrisholm ‘21, has also been involved in movements for social and racial justice throughout his time in quarantine. He attended protests in the Charlotte and Davidson areas throughout the summer and brought along fellow teammates and football staff members as well.
When asked what the protests meant to him, Chisholm commented, “[it was nice] just being there in solidarity and having our voices heard.”
Chisholm also spoke to the importance of educating the community, saying, “I want people to reach out to me especially when a lot of people don’t know how to deal with the injustices that surround them.” He continues to donate to bail funds and to educate those around him, as he strives towards educating those who do not understand the difficulties Black communities face.
Kellan Grady ‘21, a member of the Men’s Basketball team, has also been involved in social justice advocacy around campus with his engagement in the CARE (College Athletes for Respect and Equality) initiative. CARE has a large committee working towards its mission, with an educational consultant and social worker on its board and Grady at the center of the program. CARE’s mission is to go to schools, from elementary through high school, empowering and educating younger generations on racial injustice and other issues in the United States.
“What motivated me to get involved in this is that I remembered how much I used to look up to college athletes and how impactful they were to me. At a time like this, I think it’s our duty as athletes to stand up for what’s right,” Grady said.
Sydney Simmons ‘21, a member of the Women’s Soccer team, has been very active as well by donating to different bail funds, “signing every and all petitions [she] came across,” and educating herself and others constantly. Simmons also faces another hurdle in her life as the only African American member of the Davidson Women’s Soccer team.
“It’s sad to not have [Michele Manceaux ‘20] on the team anymore and to have someone that, you know, understands what you are going through. Sometimes it feels like I’m just the token Black girl, here for diversity,” Simmons said.
However, Simmons has used that positionality to empower herself and her teammates to learn more and to educate themselves in order to better their small circle first. From there, they hope to extend their impact to the greater world around them.