Boston English junior Mekhi Dedrick sent a strong message by dropping 68 points in his first two games against Boston City League rival Brighton, all while wearing a jersey that delivered another strong message.
Dedrick and his teammates started the year by wearing customized uniforms with a slogan of their choosing related to the Black Lives Matter movement. The Bulldogs gifted administrators at English with their own customized jerseys and are heavily involved in a multitude of programs offered by the school in an effort to raise awareness regarding Black History and Black empowerment.
For Dedrick, choosing from a list of slogans (similar to what NBA players sported in the Orlando Bubble last summer) was easy. He wanted his shirt to read: Black Lives Matter.
“There’s a lot of history with English,” said Dedrick, an explosive 5-foot-10 point guard with three years varsity experience.
“It’s the first public [high] school in America, so I’m representing all the ones that came before me, and having Black Lives Matter on my jersey just wants me to represent that much more.”
While not limited to February, English is offering a number of academic and extracurricular pursuits during Black History Month.
The Jamaica Plain school is offering two new English courses on racial justice, offering Black Lives Matter Restorative Circles, and will virtually hold a Black History & Culture Academy over February vacation.
Sports can help raise awareness of these opportunities for the student body.
“These uniforms and their messages about social justice symbolize the fact that our students are not going to school in a vacuum,” said English principal Caitlin Murphy.
“Their formative years are playing out during a period of significant social unrest and systematic change, and we want to push the conversation forward.”
At Everett High, the conversation has been ongoing since three-sport athlete Ann Laurie founded the Empowering Young Black Excellence (EYBE) Club last year with help from guidance counselor Sashae Walls.
“I’ve always wanted to create a space for people of color since I was a freshman,” said Laurie, who hopes to continue her volleyball career while attending Howard University as a pre-med student. “It just continued growing and it’s great to see more people get involved.”
With former New Mission basketball coach Cory McCarthy now vice principal at Everett, the EYBE has significantly ramped up its presence with virtual events schedule for every night of Febuary.
McCarthy opened the month with a series of presentations from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, such as Howard, and continues this week with a Black Educators Night, Art Expo, and Urban Finance Night.
The programs are inclusive to anyone in the Everett community and beyond, with members of the Malden High community also tuning in remotely.
Thanks in no small part to the leading activism of student-athletes like Laurie, and football stars, Ismael and Christian Zamor, the club continues to draw between 50 and 100 attendees each night.
“Sports is a platform we can use to create change,” said Ismael, a junior wide receiver committed to Boston College.
“It’s sad and it’s unfair to see that we get treated differently because of a skin color. And to make a change, we need to educate our peers.”
Ismael’s younger brother, Christian, is also an elite college prospect. The freshman linebacker participated in the UnderArmour All-American Game as an eighth grader and wants to play in the NFL.
After the killing of George Floyd and other notable examples of racial injustice occurred last summer, the Zamor brothers felt spurred to action, and they’ve taken full advantage of their status as athletic standouts.
“The cool thing about sports is when you’re in that locker room, we don’t see each other as different,” Christian said.
“Sports sets a great example of where we need to be at as a society. It shows we’re not that different and we need to come together to chase that one goal of equality. Education is where it starts, and specifically, teaching history.”
According to the Zamor brothers, some aspects of Black History aren’t necessarily covered in school. Curricula are becoming more comprehensive across the state, but as members of Everett’s EYBE and Student-Athlete Leaders program, these athletes are taking action to increase awareness.
“These kids have so much social capital,” said McCarthy. “Especially at a school like this where sports have such a presence, and even the pandemic doesn’t dilute that power.”
“[The Zamors] voice has become really powerful. Not just because everyone loves them, but because they put their action behind it. They want accountability and that’s rare coming from kids.”
After his team fell at Brighton in the second leg of a home-and-away set, English coach Eric McKoy stood on the court wearing a customized mask that read: “Coach McKoy, I Am a Man.”
His players wore slogans that included, “Love Us,” “Liberation,” and “Enough,” delivering a strong message on the importance of ending the systemic racism and biases that have plagued Black communities for decades.
For McKoy and his players, the best way to raise their own awareness is to keep those words of change close to their hearts.
“We have to come together and teach our young men and women about what’s going on in the world,” said McKoy, referencing the recent killings of unarmed Black people by police.
“We have to defend ourselves, but in a positive way. You can tell, since [the players] picked out what’s on their jerseys, it’s really touching them, and opening their eyes to what’s happening around them.”
▪ With no MIAA-sponsored tournaments this winter, a number of leagues and conferences have scheduled single- or double-elimination tourneys, with limited spectators because of COVID-19 protocols (check with your respective schools for broadcast plans).
▪ Cape Ann: two four-team brackets for boys’ and girls’ basketball (Feb. 17 and 19) to crown Kinney and Baker division winners. A boys’ hockey tourney will have four or six teams.
▪ Catholic Central: A CCL Cup for boys’ and girls’ basketball, and boys’ and girls’ hockey. Single-elimination tournament games will be held from Feb. 12 to Feb. 20.
▪ Catholic Conference: Tourneys for boys’ basketball and hockey (TBA).
▪ Dual County: D1 and D2 champions will be crowned in boys’ and girls’ hockey, and boys’ and girls’ basketball (Feb. 13-18).
▪ Middlesex League: Eight-team brackets (boys’ and girls’ hockey, boys’ and girls’ basketball) comprised of teams from the Freedom and Liberty Divisions will be seeded by Feb. 15 based on winning percentage.
▪ Merrimack Valley Conference: Large and Small Division championship for boys’ and girls’ basketball and boys’ hockey. There is a three-team playoff for girls’ hockey with a league championship on Feb. 20 or 21. Gymnastics and swimming will compete virtually for the league championship.
▪ Patriot League: Boys’ and girls’ basketball and boys’ and girls’ hockey teams will compete in a double-elimination Patriot Cup format Feb. 11-20.
▪ South Coast Conference: 10-team brackets for both boys’ and girls’ basketball, with the finals scheduled for Feb. 16.
▪ South Shore League: Single-elimination tournament for boys’ and girls’ basketball and hockey, tentatively starting Feb. 13 (hockey), Feb.14 (girls’ basketball), and Feb. 15 (boys’ basketball).