Not many people who know me now had the chance to meet my Dad, Mannie Kugler. He lived a humble, principled, ninety-two-year life, worked for twenty-six years as a Judge, and taught me much of what have become the core beliefs of my work as a coach and a Dad. For that learning, I am forever indebted to him.
Since the killing of George Floyd, and reflecting on the countless other deaths of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, I have searched and listened and searched some more for the tiny sliver of what support I can offer. If anyone chooses to read this and give it thought and action, then I have been helpful. As my internal search, with its twists and turns (“Drew, be quiet, it’s not your place…you’re privileged and you can’t understand”) came to my chosen conclusion here, it is proudly inherited from my Dad who always said that you could and should say hard things as long you said them respectfully.
He taught me this when I became interested as a kid in the ‘60s in opposition to the death penalty. I wrote papers about it from grade school to graduate school. I sit, to this day, in the heat of the argument. My Dad said that going into an argument to change someone else’s mind rarely if ever worked.
So I never have.
Yet, I will persist to choose moments that can make a difference.
This worldwide uproar about systemic racism has placed me in one of those moments my Dad prepared me for. And in some tragic fortune, I have found my tiny sliver of a way to help. If it’s meaningful to you, it’s a path of action you can also take.
In Montgomery, Alabama, a city with a historical hotbed of racism and the mistreatment of Black people, one man has stood up and built a very special place to overtly object and speak back against this ugliness. His name is Bryan Stevenson and the organization is the Equal Justice Initiative. My family supports EJI as they fight a truly awesome fight. From their mission:
“The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”
Mr. Stevenson and EJI endeavor to legally represent those habitually underrepresented in death penalty pursuits. Here’s a tragic fact shared by EJI that flows directly from what is being protested, as I write this, around the world:
“People of color are more likely to be prosecuted for capital murder, sentenced to death, and executed, especially if the victim in the case is white.”
Read that again.
Bryan Stevenson and EJI are working tirelessly on this and other fronts of injustice that disproportionately affect Black lives, doing the work that MUST be done. I wonder what my Dad was feeling and thinking as he talked to me in the late 1960s about the abiding value of using my voice, especially when it was important to. He couldn’t have missed it at this moment.
Neither will I.
© 2020 - Drew Kugler