A Conversation With Saints About Civil Unrest
George Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020. Millions worldwide watched the disturbing video of a white police officer kneeling on the man’s neck for 8 minutes 46 seconds until he died. The #BlackLivesMatter movement exploded. Over the next week, peaceful protests with outbursts of looting and rioting became the norm in every corner of the country and globe. Long Beach too. Unsure of exactly what to do, Coach Cav (Allen Caveness), head coach of the close-knit St. Anthony’s Saints boys’ basketball team, acted simply where he knew he could. Bible Study that Wednesday wasn’t going to be virtual. He invited the kids over to his house for pizza, bible study, and just to talk. It turned into one of the most powerful evenings he can remember. He tweeted that night: “Met with my guys today…. Gave ‘em a chance to unload and share their thoughts about everything that was going on. I can tell they needed the release. I did too.. Grateful for them dudes.” “They opened up to the frustrations of trying to understand the why and how. It’s really hard,” said Coach Cav. “We’re all trying to make sense of it. They needed to vent and they needed to express. A couple guys talked about their family, their grandparents’ experiences from the South. Their parents’ experiences from the Rodney King riots. History repeats itself, man. Everyone’s talking about things from their own perspective.” That Friday after their Signal Hill runs, there was another talk. All with the goal of making sense of this grave injustice boiling under the skin of Black Americans for years. “I was talking with my dad about the riots,” said Dedrick Allen, senior team captain, “And he told me not to go. He started telling me about the riots in the 90’s and what he saw there. About an innocent 13-year-old girl being shot by police. And he started to cry. I’ve never seen my dad cry. He’s usually tough and keeps any problems he has to himself. I’ve never seen anything like that.” For about an hour Coach Cav and the other coaches facilitated a discussion and questions or comments from the team. “The reality is that Black Americans were enslaved for nearly 250 years. And then for the next 100 years, we were freed but we weren’t equal,” said Coach Cav soberly. “Racial integration is still a new concept in this country. Just over 50 years ago, we still had separate water fountains. We weren’t allowed to eat at restaurants with white people. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that we began to be treated differently – no longer separate but still not equal. You can’t undo the effects of nearly 400 years of slavery and injustice in just 40 or 50 years. You just can’t. It can get better but, unfortunately, I truly don’t believe the effects of slavery will be solved in my lifetime. Maybe yours.” Coach Eric Price chimed in. “We need to ask ourselves why they assumed that officer’s offense was a third-degree murder and we had to plead up to the first?” He looked at the 13 young black players in front of him. “If we’re being 100% real? Think to yourself. How many of you know a brother or a cousin that could have been [in place of George Floyd]. How many of you have a brother or cousin that’s been locked up? Every black man I know that’s been locked up was assumed the worst and had to plead down?” How come that man was assumed third degree and the whole world had to plead his charge up?” Coach Charles Belvin stepped in with a different perspective. “Listen, a lot of black men want to sit here and complain about what they’re doing to us. But what are we doing to ourselves? What can we do to tell ourselves we’re part of the solution not the problem? Look at the black on black crime in every city. If you’re killing another black man, if you’re getting a woman pregnant and leaving her behind? Are you part of the problem? Or part of the solution? We want to complain about laws but did you vote? We put the people in office. Do you know who our mayor is? Do you know who our police chief is?” He brought it back to the kids. “What can you do in high school? Are you making it count in the classroom? Are you getting good grades? Are you on the path to college? Are you working toward a profession to make change? Because if you’re not going to be a part of the solution you’re part of the problem.” A little later Coach Cav invited his friend, an officer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff department, to talk to the team about some real-life situations that they may not have wanted but needed to hear. “It was powerful.” Coach Cav said. “A couple of the guys got emotional because he shared some personal experiences and got real with them on how they need to react to best ensure their safety if they ever get pulled over or detained or anything like that.
He wants a large group of young black men to be able to walk down the street in hoodies without people’s first reaction to be bad. “Right now theperception is still that it’s a gang. The reality is, that’s my basketball team.” At the end of the day, Coach Cav wrote about the talks on Instagram. He summed up: “We certainly didn’t solve all of society’s problems today, but for the next generation, we grew a little bit, bonded a little bit, and we got a little bit better. The journey continues…. #GeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatter” “[The one positive is] the amount of people who are engaged, and having so many non-Black people involved. It’s something I’ve never seen before. This movement is bigger and more intense than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. We Black people can complain and cry all we want, but to see all these other people speaking to that movement, and all these powerful people willing to publicly protest, it finally feels like a step forward. I never thought real change would be possible until I saw a lot of white people starting to get involved and thinking about it.” Coach Cav hopes for small changes for starters. Less automatic judgement and bad perceptions. He wants a large group of young black men to be able to walk down the street in hoodies without people’s first reaction to be bad. “Right now the perception is still that it’s a gang. The reality is, that’s my basketball team.” But whatever mix of quarantining, lawless murder, phone footage, and general unrest caused this movement, it’s giving Coach Cav hope. “This feels different. It won’t happen in a day but you can see movement. You can see growth. We’re seeing MAJOR white people, those in power, start to speak out about things and admit they were wrong. That wasn’t happening when Kaepernick was kneeling during 2016. Or even when others like Trayvon Martin were killed. It wasn’t happening to this degree or this level, or this consistently over a period.” As of June 12, 2020 (our magazine press date), thousands and thousands have peacefully protested for change in Long Beach. Millions are talking, posting on social media and having a worldwide conversation. We’ll see what continues to happen, but many in Coach Cav’s generation are grateful for the small steps we’re taking now. Steps we should have taken long ago. Yet steps they never thought they’d see. •908•