WASHINGTON (WUSA 9) — Sports is just a microcosm of society, so it stands to reason the MLK holiday means something in their world as well. For the last 12 years, the Washington Wizards have held a panel discussion with an audience of teenagers.
But this year, given what’s happened with the Eric Garner and Mike Brown cases, the group was mostly teen boys of color hearing the message of non-violent change.
Michael Brown is the black Ferguson, Missouri teen shot and killed at the hands of white police officer Darren Wilson. Eric Garner is the black New Yorker who died when a white police officer used an illegal chokehold on him.
Both cases sparked outrage and many violent protests, but it was peaceful protests on the minds of the crowd at the We Are Dreamers panel discussion put on by the Washington Wizards in honor of the Martin Luther King Holiday.
One of the panelists was former Wizard Etan Thomas. He wore an I can’t breathe t-shirt, the words Michael Garner spoke as he was being choked to death.
Thomas is passionate about young men of color finding their way in the world.
“When you step out into the street you’re not always going to be treated the way that you should be treated, right, but you’ve got to learn a way to rise above that and make it anyway,” said Thomas.
The words are meaningful for 18-year-old Chris Harris. The Cardozo High School senior said he grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive household, but knows fighting is not the answer.
The panel, including Cortni Grange, the Executive Director of Future Leaders & Young Entrepreneurs, drove home that point.
“In today’s society we see that things tend to come full circle. The things that are happening now, it’s the same narrative … over and over again. And for me, I always saw it as — okay, that means we need to do something. We can talk, we can have discussion, we can march, we can do all these things, but it takes the action.”
“You can’t go about things reacting,” said Harris. “You have to sit down and think about it. Life is like a game of chess. You always have to think three steps ahead.”
Chris hopes to be part of the change Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. started.
Etan Thomas suggests young people, like those in that room, can change perspectives through their actions and the use of social media. One Tweet or one Facebook post can bring together a group quickly.