During a time of rage, sadness, and introspection about racism and injustice in America, many people are feeling powerless and desperate for change. It is a painful and pivotal time for the nation, and it’s more important than ever for people to come together and take action.
To discuss and gain insight on this topic, University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Interim President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, sat down with Pro Football Hall of Famer, former Ravens linebacker, and UMB Foundation board member Ray Lewis on the June 4 edition of Virtual Face to Face with Dr. Bruce Jarrell.
Jarrell opened the discussion on a somber note by asking Lewis to share his feelings about the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. His killing has led to protests in Baltimore and across the country; four officers have been fired and charged in his death.
“The color of your skin should not define who you are as a person or what you do in life,” said Lewis. Attendees could feel the passion in his voice as he spoke. “No one can tell you how to deal with the pain that comes with that because as a black man it is not something that can be fully explained. It’s something that you just feel.”
Lewis broke down as he talked about that pain.
“Cops are killing black men; it’s like it’s a hobby,” he said. “There’s no excuses. You can’t do that. Because you break us. You physically break us. That’s why I haven’t spoken. Because it’s painful. It’s not easy. It’s not easy going through something in life and figuring out how to make it out. It’s not easy making it in life when you’re only looked at a certain way because of the color of your skin.”
Lewis impressed upon Jarrell and the program attendees that we need to come together as a nation to address this vicious cycle of police brutality, systematic racism, and injustice in the black community.
“Our only way out of this is through love,” Lewis said. “We have to feel each other again. We have to love each other again. The question is: How do we replace all the pain, hurt, confusion, and injustice with love, hope, communication, and integrity?”
Questions from the audience echoed Lewis’ sentiment of using their hurt and anger for good. One audience member asked him how people can constructively hold onto this pain so that it can become a vehicle for systematic change.
Lewis responded with an anecdote about how he was once approached in a restaurant by a man who was upset with something Lewis had said. Rather than arguing with the man, Lewis invited him to sit down and discuss the issue. This turned into a 40-minute conversation involving other people in the restaurant.
By the end of the discussion, all parties felt heard and healed. Lewis explained that this positive shift in perspective was only achievable because they were given a space to be vulnerable with each other and openly discuss their pain.
“It’s therapeutic to get that pain out,” Lewis said. “When you turn that pain into an open dialogue, you start to see change. Eventually that pain becomes a vision. Then, that vision becomes a mission. That mission becomes your purpose. And that purpose becomes your destiny.”
Lewis also emphasized the importance of working together to build a strong foundation for the neighborhoods and communities in West Baltimore. He explained that to see change in this city and this country as a whole, we need to love each other and work together.
“We are better together,” he concluded.
Before signing off, Lewis and Jarrell revealed that UMB is working with the NFL legend on a new “No Excuses” lifestyle, wellness, and health program in Baltimore with the goal of bringing the community and police together. They said that an official announcement with more details about the partnership will be made June 22.
You can watch the entire discussion by clicking the link above.