A group of former Mercer football players recently hosted an event that increased awareness of racial injustice while raising funds for a local organization.
Tosin Aguebor, Sytavious Brown, Caleb Brown and Jordan Marshall — all Class of 2016 graduates and members of Mercer’s inaugural football team — organized the “Breaking Beariers: Macon Unity Fundraiser” at Tattnall Square Park on July 11 with input and assistance from about 20 other former Bear football players.
“If we’re not talking or having that conversation, we’re not learning; we’re not giving ourselves a chance to move toward a better future,” said Sytavious Brown, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and a Master of Business Administration at Mercer. “Those conversations and these types of events are important.”
For some time, this group of alumni has stayed connected through a large group text. They have deep discussions and offer opinions, and they’re always looking for ways to turn their talk into action that can make a difference in the community, said Aguebor, who holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a Master of Business Administration in finance from Mercer.
About a month ago, as they discussed their feelings related to systemic racism in America, Aguebor suggested the group host a rally in Macon to educate community members on the issue and how they can unite.
The group members all chipped in to fund the event, which included food from Francar’s Buffalo Wings, music and speeches by several of the former football players. They talked about making a difference through education, how members of the majority can educate themselves, and breaking systemic racism still in place today, said Marshall, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Mercer and is the director of on-campus recruiting for Mercer football.
“We need to start conquering these small battles if we want to see big change,” Aguebor said. “The event opened the eyes of some people who may not have realized ways they could help. Our hope is that people will see us as young men who just graduated college who are taking initiative in the community. Our hope is to inspire others to take action themselves to bring about change.”
The event was accompanied by a GoFundMe campaign to benefit the 100 Black Men of Macon-Middle Georgia, a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring and youth development programs, scholarships and other services to minority students. The organizers’ initial fundraising goal was $5,000, but more than $8,000 already had been raised by July 11, including additional donations from Venmo and Cash App. They’ve extended the GoFundMe campaign to July 18, and now they’re hoping to be able to raise a total of $10,000 for the organization.
The rally was attended by about 100 people, including President William D. Underwood, women’s basketball coach Susie Gardner, men’s basketball coach Greg Gary, football coach Drew Cronic, Director of Athletics Jim Cole, players on the football team and men’s and women’s basketball teams, and community members.
“There were a lot of people out there talking and communicating with each other, from all different types of backgrounds. It was good for everyone to unite as one,” Marshall said.
Caleb Brown, a Macon artist who graduated from Mercer as a psychology major and art minor, delivered a message during the event that revolved around building bridges. He said the community embraced him as an artist and football player, but many people don’t receive the same treatment because of the color of their skin. It’s the responsibility of local residents to start change in their hometowns and create positive examples for other cities.
“At the very least, we’re here to build bridges for the people who come behind us,” he said. “The most important things in life take time. When you look at the issue of inequality in this country, it’s a long fight. We have to be in it for the long haul. I may never reap the benefits, but maybe my son or grandson can.”
To donate, visit the GoFundMe page or send money to “BreakingBeariers2020” through Venmo or Cash App.