When Corey Jenkins saw the video of George Floyd’s death in late May, a wave of emotion washed over him.
The Braswell volleyball coach’s first thought was his team, and more importantly, how the issue was affecting them.
“I had a Zoom meeting [with the team] right after [Floyd’s death], and it was just crazy,” Jenkins said. “To see their faces, I hurt for them.”
Jenkins knew he had to do something to help.
He immediately took to the internet, researching programs that help educate about race issues, with the ultimate goal of ending racism. Eventually, Jenkins found an initiative that originated in Australia.
The program, titled “Racism: It Stops With Me,” began in 2012. Its goal is to counter racism wherever it happens.
“We just started having open conversations,” Jenkins said. ”I thought, ‘You know, I’ve never really tackled this as a coach as far as a program goes.’”
Jenkins emailed the Australian Human Rights Commission seeking permission to use material from their program. He got approval three weeks later and was given even more material to share with the Lady Bengals.
“I wanted to do something that really makes these kids feel better,” Jenkins said. “It was just time for me as a coach, for as long as I’ve been coaching, to stand up not only for these kids, but to stand up for the kids I’ve had in the past who I probably didn’t stand up for the way I should have. It’s time for me to make right and do what I can do to help them.”
The portion of the program Jenkins intends to share with Braswell focuses on identifying and eliminating stereotypes.
Jenkins has a roundtable discussion planned with several players on his team later this week. Jenkins added that he, along with the players, will wear masks and be socially distanced. The objective of the discussion is to give students a voice they might not have otherwise had.
There is also a plan in the works to bring in a school resource officer to speak with the team. Jenkins said several of his players have questions about how police officers do certain parts of their job.
“I have girls that want to ask questions,” Jenkins said. “Not to attack law enforcement or anything, but one of my girls wants to know what their process is when [police officers] walk up to a vehicle. What are they looking for? They don’t understand that stuff as kids. They’re scared to death to be pulled over or called out in public — the stereotype of ‘are they being looked at the same way as other people?’”
As the season progresses, Jenkins plans to share a new lesson with the Lady Bengals each week. Each of Braswell’s players has also recorded the phrase “Racism, it stops with me” that will be edited together in one video.
The Lady Bengals will also have the phrase “Racism stops with me” printed above their locker room this year.
Jenkins said he has already heard from players who say the program has helped them. Moving forward, he intends to continue to help any way he can.
“This really is just bringing awareness to the stereotypes, and as a volleyball program at Braswell High School, we’re going to be walking around being conscious of it,” Jenkins said.