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Letter from Demario Davis: Change starts and ends with us

A letter from New York Jets linebacker Demario Davis:

There are many things going on in our country currently involving injustice and mistreatment of black and brown people. It seems as of late that the NFL, its owners, and the players are directly in the center of this conversation. However, the truth is that these issues have existed in our country long before they arrived on the doorsteps of the NFL.

These problems have gone on too long, but today we have a unique opportunity. When these issues arrived on the podium for the NFL to address following Colin Kapernick's decision to take a knee, and President Donald Trump's public declaration describing players as sons of b------, the platform of the NFL was made larger and took on a greater sense of responsibility. Players and owners answered the call by forming committees to work on three areas of need affecting black and brown communities. These areas include education, criminal justice reform and community engagement.

I personally got involved because I have been directly affected by all of these areas at some point in time. I am from Mississippi, the state ranked 50th in education, so I know the effects of poor education systems. It is an absolute atrocity in 2018 that the schools in black and brown communities are not on the same level as those in white communities. Even growing up in a state with the worst education system, you could easily see the disparities.

The criminal justice system has also affected me and close family members. The unjust war on drugs, the bail system, and the lack of speedy trials has made way for millions of people, mainly black and brown, to be locked up for long periods of times, when in many situations jail time could have been avoided. I was arrested in college at 18 years old for shoplifting. I spent three days in jail before returning to my team. If I had not been a scholarship student, and had my coaches not posted my $10,000 bail, money my family did not have, I could have spent months to a year in jail waiting on a trial date. This is just one of the problems in our criminal justice system.

Police engagement is in one of its most tense times in recent history. The relationship between black and brown people and police officers is not one of trust. The moment a black man is pulled over by a police officer, tension arises tremendously on both sides. This tension only makes communicating over a conflicting ordeal harder. The relationship between police officers and black and brown people has to become better. These areas have plagued my community for far too long.

I joined the Players Coalition because I honestly believe we can help bring change for the better in these areas. The goals I have for change in these areas are quite simple. In education, I would like to see better schools and better programs in black and brown communities. I would like to see more funding dispersed to schools in these areas. This will not only enhance the renovations and technology in the schools, but higher salaries will draw better teachers and administrators to the schools for a complete transformation. I would also like to see more life skills program instituted in schools in these communities, as many black and brown students grow up in life with different experiences than that of their suburbia counterpart.

In the area of criminal justice reform, I would like to see the bail system changed, discovery refined, and speedy trial held much more accountable. The bail system disenfranchises the poor and should probably be thrown out altogether. Discovery is a problem because all evidence a prosecutor has on a defendant does not have to be turned over until the trial. How can any lawyer properly represent a defendant without knowing all the evidence that exists against the defendant? Speedy trial is a hassle because in most places, the trial is set to be within 90 days of the arrest. However, because of many court system rules, trial is often delayed months to a year. This means people are spending months and years in jail and they have not even been found guilty.

I would like to see better relationships between cops and the people in the communities they serve. My goal is that the first encounter that black and brown people experience with a cop is not one where an arrest is happening.

Bringing change in these areas is what I am committed to. This work cannot and will not be done alone. It will take everyone, great and small, near and far. Ways that people can get involved vary based on reach and resources. The first thing everyone can do is choose to be informed and spread awareness. Learn what is going on in these three areas and spread the information you learn. Volunteering and using time and resources to bring change in these areas is also needed. Lastly, a commitment to seeing the job through to the end is required on all our parts.

This is our country and we all want to see it better. It will start and end with us. We must make it a better place for our children; we will make it a better place. Peace, blessings and love.

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