Social Justice Game Changer: Russell Drake

by Josh Cohen

Name: Russell Drake

Game Honored: Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Hornets (1/24/2021)

Background: Fueled by faith and a passion for empowering others, Drake is simple, direct and cogent when he says, “in order to reach the community, you must be in the community.” Undoubtedly true and words Drake, a Gary, Indiana native who moved to Orlando 18 years ago after graduating from Howard University in Washington D.C., stands by every day.

A public speaker, civic strategist and network builder, Drake is a part of many local and national organizations, through which he shares his wisdom and inspires others to work hard to achieve their goals. Among the groups he is involved with are the African American Chamber of Commerce, the Central Florida Urban League, the Howard University Alumni Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee.

Drake, a father to a 14-year-old daughter and a brother to seven siblings, is also a devoted member of Saint Mark AME Church, where he is active on the Trustee Board (Vice Chair), Usher Board, Praise Team, and Men’s Choir.

“My parents have always been givers and have done community service,” said Drake, who works as a Senior Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics. “They pretty much always said leave something better than you found it, so I’ve always drove to (do) that.”

Making a Difference: From his motivational speaking to his social media marketing to his creative writing, Drake makes an impact through his various skills. Being as multitalented as he is allows him to extend his reach to many, who are able to learn from him and take the necessary steps to grow and evolve.

With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting so many so hard, Drake has been helping people work through these incredibly tough times. Educating others on the resources that are available to them to avoid health complications or economic fallout has been one of Drake’s recent undertakings.

He also lately has been going around downtown Orlando handing out blankets to the homeless, which he also has done in the past.

What’s Next: Helping small businesses regain their footing is something Drake plans on assisting with in the days, weeks and months ahead.

“On the horizon further is continuing to invest in the community in an economic sense, trying to put more focus on these local businesses and helping them out and shifting our narrative to put money into them,” he said. “Making a way for them to see there are opportunities for entrepreneurship. I think economics is the education that we have to focus on in the year now seeing the situation that we are in.”

Working with the Magic: The compassion the Magic have for the community and their devotion to helping others reach their full potential aligns with Drake’s own beliefs, values and goals, and it motivates him even more to participate in community activities.

“I’m incredibly humbled and I always have to keep thinking is it real because I’ve seen the commitment from the Magic organization over two decades that I’ve been in Orlando, so I think it’s very special, I’m appreciative,” Drake said. “I think there are so many people that do a lot in the community, and that you (the Magic) all thought about me is just very special and appreciated.”

Having Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford and the team’s players be as engaged as they are in community outreach programs is inspirational, and it shows that they truly care about their neighbors.

“I think it’s outstanding for the coach and the players and the whole organization to understand they are part of the community as a whole,” Drake said. “For he (Clifford) and the whole organization to put such an emphasis on community outreach, and not just for one month or one day but for the whole year, is outstanding. It’s clear to me the whole Magic organization are pillars in the community, and it’s seen and I think appreciated by all.”

About the Program: As part of the Magic and Clifford’s continuing efforts toward social justice reform, he created the Social Justice Game Changer program to honor one local leader who has made a difference in the realm of social justice issues. A cause close to his heart, Clifford is extremely active in programs that support equality and justice for all people in the Central Florida community.

Through this program, Clifford looks to put the spotlight on those continuously doing the hard work, day in and day out, fighting for sustainable change. As part of his program, one person is selected and honored each game. The honorees are given tickets, provided by Clifford, to the game and featured in-arena on the Magic Vision screen at center court.

“The purpose is to honor and to celebrate so many of the people in the Orlando community who are fighting for change and who commit their lives to making Orlando a better place,” Clifford said. “It’s just a way to celebrate them, what they stand for, and what they do for our community.”

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