WKU athletes support Black Lives Matter: ‘It is your time, and it is your turn’

WKU athletes Juwan Jones, Demetrius Cain, and Tavion Hollingsworth lead protesters down Avenue of Champions during the Black Lives Matter protest organized by WKU Athletics on September 30, 2020.

WKU students and athletes gathered Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. in front of Diddle Arena to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Students and alumni spoke about their experiences as Black Americans and what the movement meant to them. The crowd then marched along the Avenue of Champions chanting and holding signs.

Redshirt junior football player Juwan Jones helped arrange the event and led the crowd in chants including “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace”.

“I think it’s a big success that all the people out here from different backgrounds and different ethnicities have come together for a change,” Jones said. “Student-athletes are a big part of the campus. Be the change, like the shirt says.”

Senior soccer player Ashley Leonard and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee were also involved in the organization of the event. 

Jones said around 100 to 200 people showed up to the march. 

“I’m really proud, it was way more people than I expected to come out. They filled up all of the street,” Jones said. 

Curtis Johnson, a 2001 graduate of WKU and Omega Psi Phi pledge, came and spoke to the students and claimed it was “their turn” to make the big decisions moving forward. 

“Is this not your time? Is this not your place? I’m here to tell you today that it is your time and it is your turn,” Johnson exclaimed to those who gathered. 

Johnson said he was invited by graduate linebacker Eli Brown to come out and speak. 

“What decisions are you going to make? What are you going to do,” Johnson said. “Are you going to keep marching or are going to wait and see what the next person is going to do? Or are you going to accept that it is my time?”

Several demonstrations have occurred in Bowling Green over the past week, including a student-organized march for Breonna Taylor that occurred at Centennial Mall.

Another event, organized by the Bowling Green Freedom Walkers, was held in the downtown area in support of BLM.

Taylor Davis is a junior softball player from Madison, Alabama who spoke at the protest this evening, she shared her experience being a Black girl in a predominantly white town in Alabama. 

“Growing up, I was the only Black girl in my friend groups,” Davis said. “When I was in sixth grade, I realized I wanted to be pretty like my white friends. So I took the beautiful curls that God blessed me with and I straightened my hair from the time, from sixth grade until twelfth grade. I was hating myself to fit the image of someone else.”

Davis also shared about her passion for social justice and the fear she had to overcome in order to share her experiences in front of everyone. 

“I’ve always been super passionate about injustice, but I was so scared to share my viewpoint and my voice because I didn’t want to be seen as inadequate,” Davis said. “My softball coach encouraged me to speak and I honestly wanted to, but I was terrified to speak up. Later that day, Ashley Leonard, the one who organized most of [the protest], asked if I wanted to speak, and I knew that was the moment to turn away from my fear and to step up to finally speak on what I have been holding in my entire life.” 

Ebony Dunn is a freshman who shared that the speech given by Davis inspired her as a Black woman. 

“I came to the protest for my spirit sister Breonna Taylor,” Dunn said. “The most unprotected Black person in America is the Black Woman.”

Students shared their feelings about the importance of supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and trying to make change to systems that are seen as unjust. 

According to freshman Emon Williams, protests are a way for people to fight for change, and by participating in protests people can grow and do better. Other students, such as sophomores Roshila Tamang and Jamerica Cox, shared that they felt it was their duty to people to stand up for a cause that they believe in.

Demarquez Trotter, a redshirt junior on the football team, said Wednesday’s march was an important milestone in the history of WKU. 

“Since I’ve been here, this is probably the first time something like this has happened. This should go down in history books,” Trotter said. “This was a historical event for the campus and hopefully we can inspire more campuses to do something.”

Trotter said that while some of his teammates chose not to show out to the march, he doesn’t feel any negative emotions toward them.

“Some [players] came and some didn’t, they just weren’t comfortable, but as long as they spread the word with people they’re around and make sure they do the right thing, making sure everyone is treated equally, I have no problem with them,” Trotter said.

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected] Follow Nick on Twitter at @KieserNick

Michael J. Collins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @mjcollinsnews.

Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy.