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Extended Interview: Harry Sydney starts the conversation about the power to change

Sydney speaks candidly for Power 2 Change about the racism he's experienced and what's happening today
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 9:59 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2020 at 10:01 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Racism. Equality. Police brutality. Protests. Calls for justice.

As a news organization, we’ve covered news events surrounding these issues. As a community resource, WBAY knows we need to do more to advance the conversation about race in Northeast Wisconsin. This is the Power 2 Change.

People are sharing their stories about racism: how it’s affected lives, choices and -- potentially -- futures. These are raw, honest conversations looking at life through a personal lens.

We bring you our first reflection from Harry Sydney. Sydney runs the non-profit male mentoring program My Brother’s Keeper, which has helped thousands of men learn emotional and life skills to create positive change.

Sydney is also a former NFL football player and coach who made Green Bay his home after his time on the field ended.

In his own words, Harry Sydney speaks about how he hopes to be seen as we begin the power to change.

“My name is Harry F. Sydney III. I’m from Fayetteville, North Carolina. Grew up in the 60s, son of a military man, grew up in what I call prejudice, because it was in the south. Grew up... at six years old, I dreamed of being something, and that was a professional football player, but in that process I realized there were a lot of things that got in the way. So, I’m like everybody else. I’m a guy who had a dream at an early age that, fortunately, because of a lot of different reasons made it. And in that process of ‘made it’ -- and I say ‘made it’ because I get to pay my bills, I get to love my lady, and I get to be a dad and a grandfather, I get to run my own business, I run My Brother’s Keeper, a male mentoring program -- but I’m just a guy who’s lived life and seen a lot of different things.

WATCH BELOW: Extended interview with Harry Sydney

“You know, it’s amazing. Growing up you think of all the things that you went through. I remember the times when I was six years old. I was playing Pop Warner football. As a young kid, I was an athlete. As an athlete, I was tough and all those things. I remember running and I could hear the coaches in the back. Instead of saying, ‘Look at Harry run,” I’d hear them say, ‘Look at t

hat little N-word run.' I’d get mad, but that made me faster.

“And that’s the crazy thing. I put guards up. I remember when I first came here in 1992 when I was playing. I remember going to the mall, and I went to the mall, I had finally made some money in Green Bay, and I was getting in the elevator. And this lady, a white lady, all of the sudden she grabbed her purse tighter. I wanted to say, ‘I make more money than you. I’m not here to scare you. I’m not here to do anything. I just happened to be in the elevator with you.' And those are the little things. When you, you’re going to the grocery store, instead of putting change in my hand they put it on the counter and then you’d have to pick it up. If you’re not paying attention to it, you wouldn’t think nothing of it. But if it’s happened all your life? You get used to it.

“What I want people to understand is, if you look at every breakdown in our world, it’s all about lack of communication. It’s about lack of communication. Instead of talking at, you gotta talk with. I had the most amazing thing. And for all the protesters out there who think what they did didn’t matter, I gotta tell you this: It did matter. I had some amazing thing happen to me. I golf a lot -- let’s just say it’s my hobby. I had a white gentleman, I think he’s like 72, 73. We’ve talked at different times. He came up to me on the golf course, and he came up and shook my hand. He apologized, and he started crying. This is a 72-, 73-year-old guy who’s been through different things, he’s forged his life. For him to come up and apologize? That means people are paying attention.

“Now that they’re paying attention, let’s keep the conversation. It’s been a long time, and so much of this is happening because the same people aren’t talking now. For so long, the same people talk and people got tired of hearing. Now different people talking -- and they’re talking, not screaming, not yelling.

“You know, so many times we are waiting for the conversation to have in the mayor’s office, at the police station. I think the conversation has to start across the street. The conversation has to start at schools. The conversation has to start when you drop your daughter off somewhere and you say, ‘Hey, how you doing?' when you’re not too busy. I think the conversation starts with everybody checking themselves and just looking at that person and saying, ‘Hey. Hi. How are you doing?'

Hear more from Harry Sydney in the extended interview below and in our Get 2 the Point podcast devoted to Power 2 Change.

To learn more about My Brother’s Keeper, visit https://mybrotherskeeperinc.net/

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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