Wednesday, September 2, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: Jimmy Smith on his March on Washington experience

For an extended version of this interview, please consider supporting my work by subscribing to my Patreon page.  Members get exclusive interviews and early access to my other work.
Jimmy Smith, image- Jay Floyd

Former Phillies minor leaguer Jimmy Smith, along with some family, participated in the recent March on Washington and spoke about his experience at the event and what it meant to him to be there.  The march, set up by Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network, was designed as a way for citizens to stand up to racial injustices in our country.

Prior to his release by the Phillies last year, the Central Washington University product tallied a .250/.305/.337 slash line at two levels. 

Read ahead for my interview with Jimmy.

 -Why was it important to you to be present for this Commitment March, as it was called?

It was the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. Growing up, my parents shared how impactful the original March on Washington was, so I couldn’t pass the opportunity to take a stand and use my voice. 
 
One day I hope to share the stories with my children of what I saw and felt that day as proud black man. 

-I don't recall you residing anywhere close to DC, where the march took place.  Did you have to travel for this?
 
I currently live across the country in Southern California but I was born in Washington DC. I grew up within 10 miles of about 11 aunties and uncles and about twice as many cousins, so I have very fond memories of growing up in the city. My older sister and most aunties and uncles still live there so whenever I come back it feels like coming home. 

-Who joined you for the march?
 
At the March I was with my sister and best friend. I met my sister in the city and my friend flew out a few days after. 

-Did you make the impact you hoped for or was the goal to have the experience impact you?
 
I definitely felt like it was an impactful and historical day. I saw the most diverse group of people imaginable out there speaking up for injustice across the nation.

-What did you see or do that was expected and what did you see or do that surprised you?
 
The actual March itself was an incredible experience. The tone was strong and incredibly focused, so I was pleasantly surprised to see law enforcement watch and stand alongside many of the folks just looking to walk along. 
 
Over the past year or two we’ve all seen horrific images from New York, Portland, Hong Kong, of police using brutal unwarranted force against protestors. I was surprised at how constructive peaceful protests can be when done without violence from anyone.  (Those are) the driving principle of Dr. King’s original message.

-For people that don't recognize or acknowledge what Black Lives Matter stands for or for people that try to argue against it in some way, what would you want to tell them?
 
I’d want to tell them that Black Lives Matter isn’t simply a “political statement” or a hashtag. Anyone that argues against it needs to understand this isn’t a competition, it’s not black people versus the police. It’s a movement acknowledged by any person that can understand that killing humans because of their ethnicity, sexuality, or appearance is unacceptable and truly unjust. Just so happens this country has a history of hunting African Americans since its inception.
 
-Personally, I feel as though law enforcement training could be refined with a focus on less lethal force.  What else would you like to see done to address the things going on?
 
One crucial thing I believe must happen for this to move forward is qualified immunity must come to an end. My cousin was an excellent officer when she was in the force. One of my close friends father was an officer. I’ve met a few guys in college that I believe to be some of the best men for the job. I believe for the ones who aren’t fit to wear the badge, we must make sure that they are met with equal or more substantial penalties than regular citizens because they have been entrusted to protect the people. A slap in the wrist for murder is unjust.

-What else can you share about the march?
 
The march was unforgettable and I would encourage any of those that are able to safely, go and take a stand for what you believe in. Do not be afraid by the images you see on the news, they don’t fully represent the entirety of the movement or experiences you can have.

The complete version of this interview can be viewed on my Patreon page.

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