addByline("Zach Rosen", "WashingtonWizards.com", "ZacharySRosen");
After the unthinkable deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others by the hands of police brutality and racism, the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics decided that they could not stand on the sidelines any longer.
On June 5, members of both teams finalized an open letter expressing their united stance against systemic racism and police brutality.
Backed by the team’s ownership, management, and coaching staff, the players promised to lead the charge for change in Washington, D.C. and beyond. Along with Bradley Beal, Natasha Cloud, and several others, Ian Mahinmi was one of the leading voices in penning the letter that Friday night.
The next morning, Mahinmi woke up feeling it was time to be in the streets and take action. He made a decision to drive four hours from his home in San Antonio to Dallas to take part in a peaceful protest. Mahinmi, who was raised in France by a Beninese father and a Jamaican mother, kissed his wife and his three daughters and said goodbye for the weekend, unsure of how long he may be in Dallas and what was ahead of him.
“It ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Mahinmi said in an interview on Saturday.
Mahinmi’s agent, Bouna Ndiaye, lives in Dallas. Ndiaye had been in touch with local activist King Ashoka, who helps lead The S.L.A.P. Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading positivity in the community. At a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas, Mahinmi met Sergeant Ira Carter of the Dallas Police Department, who Mahinmi called an “unbelievable human being.” As it turned out, Sgt. Carter was one of the first black police officers to march with citizens in Dallas.
Sergeant Carter, who is black, invited Mahinmi to his station in South Dallas. At the police station, Mahinmi, Sgt. Carter and four other officers – one white, one Asian, one South American, and one black – had a long conversation about everything happening in the world. Mahinmi found himself in the police station until midnight on Saturday night.
“We need to find ways to make change and hold ourselves accountable in terms of police brutality,” Mahinmi reflected. “How do we keep the police in check? How do we keep our community in check? There are different ways to go about it, and those were part of the discussions too.”
While he was at the police station, Mahinmi and Sgt. Carter were invited to attend a peaceful protest in nearby Wylie, which is a predominantly white suburb, on Sunday. Mahinmi’s experience in Dallas made going to Wylie a no-brainer. He slept at Ndiaye’s house in Dallas on Saturday night, eager to keep the momentum going on Sunday.
Along with Anthony Henderson, the Wylie Police Department’s Chief of Police, Mahinmi and Sgt. Carter spoke at the peaceful rally and march in Wylie. As seen in the video, Mahinmi told the crowd of hundreds of people that he wanted to use his platform and show the world what Wylie was doing.
“Everything that you guys are doing is just as important as what’s going on in Washington, D.C.,” he said to the crowd.
Mahinmi encouraged the crowd to vote, not only in presidential elections but also local elections. Both Mahinmi and Sgt. Carter said that everyone needs to be willing to step to the forefront and have uncomfortable conversations. They both added that we need to bridge the gap between our communities and the police, and put in action plans to start the tangible change.
Sergeant Carter told Wylie’s citizens that he had been pulled over at gunpoint multiple times when he was out of uniform. When the police found out that he was a fellow officer, they said, “Oh, you’re a cop?” In his speech to the crowd, Sgt. Carter proclaimed, “Why should that matter that I’m a cop? I do a lot of public speaking and I’m always well spoken. Should I not be because I’m black?”
This speech, like so many happening all over the country, may not be on national television, but Mahinmi wanted to make sure he used his platform for the world to see the powerful conversations taking place in a place like Wylie.
“You see a lot of stuff on TV, and sometimes you don’t get to see the good that’s equally as important,” Mahinmi explained. “I felt like what I experienced in Dallas and in Wylie was powerful.”
The long drive home was very emotional for the Wizards big man. He called the weekend one of the most incredible experiences of his life, but a lot of thought went into arriving at that conclusion.
“I’m not a very emotional guy,” Mahinmi reflected. “I didn’t know how to feel about myself. I was mad. I was angry. I was happy. I felt the energy. But I was also emotionally drained. It was emotional. I got home late that Sunday and I wasn’t really talking much because there was so much going on in my mind. By Wednesday, I felt like I was finally able to digest everything.”
Where do we go from here?
For one, Mahinmi is hopeful for the future, but recognizes that everyone needs to be educated on the topic and start taking action.
“This isn’t anything new,” he says. “You need to know your history, and you’ve got to acknowledge it. The bigger fight we are having is the fight against the racist mindset that’s hiding behind everyone, not just the honorable uniform of police officers.
“I do have real hope for change. There is action you can do to be the change. It’s going to take one person at a time, but myself, I’m committed 100% to be a part of the change. I know there’s more people out there.
“For my generation, I honestly think this is a turning point. I believe what’s going on right now is something that’s so big that we are witnessing a turning point in the change of this world.
“It’s not O.K. to take the passenger seat anymore; it’s time to drive.”