Coaches Association Promotes Education Amid Fight for Equal Justice

BOSTON – You need to understand before you can repair.

Those are the wise words of Bryan Stevenson, the founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), which the NBA Coaches Association is heeding.

The Coaches Association, of which Brad Stevens is a member, has worked privately with Stevenson to form an alliance with the Equal Justice Initiative and the Obama Foundation, with the pursuit of education at the forefront of the group’s efforts. The alliance’s goal is to help as many people as possible to understand the injustices that occur daily in our country, so that our society can in turn be repaired.

The tool with which the coaches will educate is the EJI’s “A History of Racial Injustice” calendar, which can be found here.

The website states that the calendar “outlines people and events in American history that are critically important but not well known.” This educational tool, the alliance states, will support our society’s ability to repair.

“When we engage truthfully in our history,” the site says, “we are better equipped to address contemporary issues ranging from mass incarceration, immigration, and human rights to how we think and talk about cultural moments and icons.”

Stevens recently outlined an example of how emerging educational resources have assisted him during recent months. He and the entire Celtics team recently held a Zoom call with Henry Louis Gates Jr., who teaches at Harvard and is an award-winning film maker, to watch a portion of his documentary “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War.” The experience greatly impacted the 43-year-old coach.

“We just watched a 20-minute snippet of the [four]-hour documentary, and then he answered questions for us,” Stevens recalled. “I learned more in that hour – I’m embarrassed to say – than I learned in my whole way through school, and certainly through my first 12 years of school.”

Stevens went on to explain how the EJI’s calendar can make a similar impact on those who consume its materials.

“For instance, today’s message (July 26) on the calendar talks about the backlash that Michelle Obama received after she said that the White House was helped to be built by slaves,” said Stevens. “And when you think about it, that’s truth. There should be no backlash. That should be accepted as fact and be accepted as truth, and in 2016 probably felt like a great deal of progress considering who was speaking.

“I don’t feel that progress as much now. And so we all have a role to play in making sure we keep this conversation going.”

Stevens later made it a point to emphasize the importance of everyone – himself included – playing an important role in the continuation of this critical conversation.

“Nobody should stick to just what they do for a living,” he said. “It’s not just athletes. We all have a responsibility in this. We all should be talking and listening and we all should be learning. This is a bigger part of who we are than what we do.”

The American Pledge of Allegiance reads, in part, “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” This movement is about the understanding and public support of true liberty, and true justice, for all.

“In an ideal world,” Stevens said, “we all walk out our door and we all feel the same way about going out to run an errand, going for a jog, whatever the case may be. That shouldn’t be a stressful thing.”

More and more groups, including the Coaches Association, the Celtics organization and the NBA as a whole, are pushing for this ideal world following a string of disturbing social injustice events. This moment in time feels different. This time, change appears to be on the horizon.

“There’s no question that there is significant momentum,” Stevens commented. “There’s no question.”

The Coaches Association helping to build on that momentum with its use of the History of Racial Injustice calendar. It is just one of many tools that are available to the public which can help the nation to understand its past, so that it can repair for its future.

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