North Texas athletes and coaches renew importance of Black History Month

North Texas athletes and coaches renew importance of Black History Month

February 28
18:34 2018

It was Martin Luther King Jr. who famously said he dreamed of living in a world where people are not judged by the color of their skin but the content of their heart.

Nearly 55 years after he gave that speech, three individuals at North Texas are fighting to keep his dream alive.

While most of head coach Jalie Mitchell’s time is spent focusing on her women’s basketball team, she is still unable to ignore the racism plaguing this country day after day.

“It’s really unfortunate and sad,” Mitchell said. “I feel that we should be able to live in a world where everyone is equal and everyone is able to walk down the street without being categorized or without statistics running through people minds or without fear.”

During Black History Month, most people spend this time looking back in history and learning about those of color who made an impact. King’s name is often brought up in the conversation because of all that he accomplished during the Civil Rights Movement.

Just as King was able to use his voice to spark change and a movement, Mitchell believes it’s important to keep the conversation regarding racism going in America.

“[Racism] is so prevalent. I think the excuse is that you get tired of it because people been talking about for years and years, but I think you have to because the racism still exists,” Mitchell said. “There are things of that nature that still go on, the profiling and the violence, so we will keep talking about until it’s solved.”

Mitchell believes it’s important to reach her players on other levels beyond just basketball. She welcomes conversations about race and anything else society deems controversial.

“I totally support them standing up for what they believe and them having a voice,” Mitchell said. “That’s important for anyone to have, for you not to feel like you have to be silent on issues that you feel that strongly about.”

Being silent about issues affecting society is not an option for men’s basketball player sophomore Roosevelt Smart. On the court, he leads the team in scoring and is ranked seventh nationally in total three-pointers made with 104.

As conversations continue about athletes’ roles in society, he believes it is important for people to be open-minded when it comes to them using their platform to speak out.

“Even though we’re athletes, we’re still human at the end of the day,” Smart said. “We still have minds and our own opinions about things we need to touch on. A lot of people aren’t doing it, but when we do it a lot of people look up to us and helps everyone get involved.”

As Black History Month comes to an end, Smart cherishes all the lessons he learned in his youth about those historical figures that helped paved the way for him. This month is significant to him because it allows the world to see all the sacrifices and trials that people of color have endured.

Growing up, Smart watched films about people like King and Rosa Parks, causing him to feel a sense of pride, knowing what they went through so he and other people of color could have more freedoms.

As issues about police brutality and racism become more prevalent within the African American community, Smart knows he can always turn to his teammates to express his concerns with what’s going on in the world.

“We’re a family first,” said Smart. “If we have something to say or on our minds or anything, we can come talk as a group or individually with the coaches or between the players.”

Just like Mitchell and Smart, senior North Texas football player Ashton Preston will not allow the talks of athletes not addressing social issues stop him from speaking out. On the field, he is known as one of the vocal leaders on defense, off the field he has gained a reputation for his involvement with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Black Student Union.

Inside the North Texas locker room, players are not afraid to converse about race and other social issues. Preston welcomes those types of conversations because it is an opportunity to hear a different perspective.

“It’s not necessarily a black versus white thing,” Preston said. “It’s more of we try to educate each other on why certain things happened. You kind of learn a lot about a lot of people on your team. You kind of just help grow them as far as understanding both sides.”

Preston was heavily influenced by his father growing up, who ultimately pushed him to take interest in human rights activist Malcolm X. After years of studying his work, he’s started to adopt an any means necessary mentality which comes from a speech by Malcolm X that he applies to his daily life.

Whether he is playing football or focusing on academics, Preston is a firm believer in finding a way for his dreams to come true.

“Every black man that you see walking this campus is beating a statistic in itself,” Preston said. “A lot of black men aren’t able to make it to college. [The fact] we even made it here is a huge step into something that we should definitely be proud of and want to strive even more to graduate.”

Former president Barack Obama once said, “Your voice can change the world.”

Despite the changes not being apparent to these three at this moment, they will continue to fight for what is right and refuse to be silenced.

“I do believe that though statistics may never fall in our favor, I embrace the struggle,” Mitchell said. “No matter the skin color or skin tone you can accomplish whatever you set your heart and mind to do.”

Featured image: Mean Green Women’s Basketball head coach Jalie Mitchell talks to her team during a time out in a game against Texas A&M International. Madison Gore

About Author

Jordan James

Jordan James

Sports writer covering Mean Green Sports and more

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