ERWIN — Independence Day marks a time of celebration and joy for Americans in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
In the wake of a nationwide movement to stop racial discrimination and social injustice, stemming from a recent string of deaths to unarmed minorities, Triton High School basketball coach T.J. Morrison feels there is more work to be done to make this country homely for all its residents.
“I think there’s a segment of our population right now that does not feel that they are home,” said Morrison. “They do not feel safe. They do not feel comfortable. And it should be our job as a society to make sure they feel at home, that they are comfortable and that there’s a place at the table.”
To that end, the Harnett County native made it a point to march with fellow locals during peaceful demonstrations in Dunn, Coats and Erwin, that were organized to promote unity and squash racism in all forms.
Son to a Native American woman and a white male, Morrison says his background made way for varying experiences that shape his current views and ideals.
“I do think people need to realize that there are some issues and that there is, and has been, systemic racism,” he said.
His mother, Sheila Chance-Morrison, told stories of her upbringing in a segregated Harnett County that can be found in her recently published book titled “Juanita, Emma Jean, and Sometimes Hughie.” Those memories, along with the anecdotes of racial discrimination relayed by his African-American stepdad, Newanda Colvin, and half brother, Nick Colvin, provided even more depth and experience.
Morrison says he doesn’t consider himself an activist, but as an educator and coach at Triton for the past 13 years, backing his co-workers, students and players amid social unrest is a necessity.
“People always talk about kids, in general, don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he added.
Similar to scenes of coaches and players demonstrating side-by-side in neighboring counties, both Morrison and Triton athletic director Wendy Simmons displayed “care” by joining their pupils and peers in the streets of downtown Erwin for the “Unity Walk” on June 22. He says their visibility at these events provides action to the words expressed in classrooms and basketball courts alike.
“I wanted the kids that I teach and the kids that I coach, and their families, to know that I support them and I’m behind them,” said Morrison. “So, I felt it was important to be there to show support for the community and the kids.”
Though there are no more scheduled demonstrations in the county, Morrison contends that he’ll find different avenues to swat away societal disparities and injustices in hopes of fortifying an all-inclusive ‘home of the brave.’
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2040.