High school students are kneeling. In fact, at least 37 high schools have reported at least one of their students has taken a knee during the playing of the national anthem these past few weeks since San Francisco 49er, Colin Kaepernick took an active stance against police brutality and the slaughter of many boys and men of color.
Joe Lofton, senior varsity football player at St. Ignatius College Preparatory (where I work) in San Francisco, Calif., along with two sophomores, Mark Biggins and Jaedon Roberts, filmed a video informing all the members of their school exactly why they felt the need to take a knee.
Here's a brief interview I had with Lofton:
Sideco: Have you ever taken a stand against injustice before? If so, what did you do?
Lofton: This is really the first time I've stood up for injustice on a scale quite this big. I've had previous experiences where I would talk about social injustice. I never really knew this was going to blow up like it did and by blow up I mean in a good way.
Who did you learn this from? If not, why now?
I just always had the mindset and mentality to advocate for myself and others. Some people who have shaped me into the young man I am today are my parents Rhonda and David Lofton, my sister Miya Aguilar, my junior year ethics teacher Mr. Shaughnessy, and my martial arts sensei Jonathan Roxas.
What's important about this moment in your life?
The most important thing about this moment is that I learned so much about myself. My whole life, people would always tell me that I am a leader and that I would help others. Back then I just thought those were words, but now I finally understand the bigger picture. The most two important days of a person's life is the day they are born and the day they find out why. I finally understand why God put me on this Earth and the purpose of life he has for me.
Does your stance connect at all to your faith? How or how not?
Yes, I believe that all forms of life are precious. Whether it may be a small army ant or a human being, the gift of life is a precious and divine thing. As a kid, I always thought of God as this guy in the sky telling us what we should and shouldn't do. Over time my perception of God has changed. As a Catholic, I do still struggle in believing that God exists and to me that's OK.
When I think of all the bad and horrible things that go on in our world, I still can't wrap my mind around that God can let these things happen. I know he can't come down and stop these things, that's why he created us. That's why he made Jesus. He made us, in order to carry out his works and the works that Jesus has done that provided a foundation for us to build upon. That is what I believe.
Tell me about how your peers and faculty responded to your articulation of your stance. Has anyone surprised you? Why or why not?
When we told our team, the conversation and dialogue we had went better than I expected. The best part about it was that people were comfortable enough to share how they felt about it. I think what made the conversation go well was the preparation we had and that members of our faculty had helped us with. Our head coach, Coach Regalia was in full support and continued to help us through the process along with all members of our football coaching staff. One of our schools counselors, Mr. Delaney, is a person I trust very highly and is one of the first people I reached out to immediately. Mr. Balano who is the director of equity and inclusion along with Mr. White, English teacher and Black Student Union moderator, helped translate our thoughts and shape that into our message. Principal Ruff and President Fr. Reese also helped give us guidance throughout the process as well. Members of the Black Student Union were always in constant support of us as well and really held us all together.
Anything else you want to tell me?
No matter who you are or what you do in your life, stand up for something. Don't go through your life and say you didn't stand up or fight for something. Whether it may be perceived as good or bad, do it. "If you don't stand up for something, you can fall for anything." Mahatma Gandhi is a leader who I look up to highly. He once said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world" and that's exactly what I am going to do. I highly encourage you, the reader, a human being with a conscience to not only be the change, but to embody it and live it. You too have the power to bring change into this world, and don't ever forget that.
Well said, Joe. Thank you for your conviction.
[Jocelyn A. Sideco is a retreat leader, spiritual director and innovative minister who specializes in mission-centered ministry. She directs the Community Service and Social Justice office at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. Visit her online ecumenical ministry, In Good Company, at ingoodcompany.net.co or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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