Paul Tue III issued a challenge to a group of Bayside Conference high school athletes.
The stepfather of Queen Anne’s County High rising senior SyRus McGowan told his son and some of his peers from Queen Anne’s and Kent counties that they should use their platforms and voices as athletes to speak out about the racism and police brutality issues under fire across the country.
The group discussed several ideas of how to accomplish that, and eventually settled on a public service announcement video.
As much as the project was about sending a message about recent events and issues in the U.S., Tue wanted to give the kids the opportunity to speak out and guide them through doing so.
“We’ve been modeling the behavior for them,” Tue said. “We’ve been trying to show them stuff that we do in the community as adults. So we wanted them to use their voices.”
Twelve people were featured in the video: McGowan, Queen Anne’s rising seniors Gene Trice and Anthony Edward Hollay Truxon, recent Queen Anne’s graduate Xavior Jones, Easton High rising seniors Dionte Hynson II and Ryan O’Connor, recent Kent County High graduates JayShaun Freeman and Manny Camper, recent Colonel Richardson High graduate Elijah Stull, recent North Caroline High graduate Jakeem Brown, Garnette Elementary second grader Jeron Hoxter and Churchill Elementary fourth grader Paul Tue IV.
They filmed the video at the Wharves of Choptank Visitor & Heritage Center in Denton. Tue enlisted help from Kent Cultural Alliance Director John Schratwieser, who directed the video and provided a cameraman.
Tue, Schratwieser and Melvin Freeman — a local activist and JayShaun Freeman’s father — helped guide the kids in creating the video and coming up with ideas, but they tried to let this project belong to the kids as much as possible.
Rani Gutting, a Chestertown resident, provided the T-shirts worn in the video, which say ‘I CAN’T BREATHE’ on the front and ‘AGAIN’ on the back. Doncella Wilson — Kent County Local Management Board Systems of Care Coordinator, Local Care Team — donated the masks worn in the video, which also say ‘I CAN’T BREATHE.’
In the video, each kid featured spoke in a segment either alone or with someone else about racism or police brutality, and ended the segment by saying “Black Lives Matter” emphatically.
Trice said the group was inspired by the NFL’s Black Lives Matter video, which similarly featured clips of athletes talking about issues of racism and police brutality and ending by saying “Black Lives Matter.”
Trice added the group hopes the video will inspire other black kids to speak out.
“At first, we didn’t know what to say,” Trice said. “But then they started giving us ideas about thinking about sports and different stuff like that, and then stuff just started popping in our heads of what to say. And it all just fell together. It made us realize that we could actually change stuff that’s going on.”
Tue had a second motivation behind the video, in addition to wanting the high schoolers to start speaking out. He hoped the message would resonate with younger kids who look up to the high school athletes.
“We hope that it just gets the awareness out to kids, that your favorite athlete or one of your favorite athletes, somebody that you cheer for in school, it affects him. Racism affects him,” Tue said. “I think kids probably don’t talk about it as much because it’s an uncomfortable conversation. So we were hoping that their white peers could look at it and be like ‘That affects JayShaun, or that affects SyRus.’ Maybe that can broach a conversation.”
O’Connor, the only white person in the video, got involved through Hynson. He wasn’t expecting to be part of a video. Hynson told O’Connor he was “doing something for the movement,” and O’Connor said he’d come and support him. He thought he was going to a march or a rally.
But he was glad he ended up in the video. He though his participation was important in the message.
“It’s important to support each other, especially in a time like this,” O’Connor said. “Color doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t, because we’re all humans in the end. Especially because Dionte’s one of my best friends, I wanted to support him, and there were a couple guys I knew there like SyRus, Xavior and a couple other athletes there. So the bottom line is we have to support each other. That’s the big thing.”
Melvin Freeman feels this video is something the group can look back on in the future and be proud of their involvement and activism.
“They felt like this was what needed to be said,” Freeman said. “So we just had to make sure we put it together, and put it together tastefully. (I’m) extremely proud. We talk about this kind of stuff all the time. But to actually put it into a perspective of something other kids can understand, I think is a really big thing.”
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