Breaking News Bar

In My Own Words: 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness ...'

  • Harrisburg alum Jake Stewart has had encounters of racism while playing sports, but now as a head coach of the Harrisburg girls' basketball team uses his voice to speak out against racial injustice.

    Harrisburg alum Jake Stewart has had encounters of racism while playing sports, but now as a head coach of the Harrisburg girls' basketball team uses his voice to speak out against racial injustice.
    SPYDER DANN | mdann@dailyregister.com

 
By Jake Stewart
Harrisburg High School Girls' Basketball Coach
updated: 6/15/2020 9:33 AM

It was a typical January night in 2001 as far as weather was concerned.

It was cold outside.

But inside one gymnasium, it was about to get colder and nothing about this night was going to be typical.

It was my junior year of high school at Harrisburg and it was truly the first time I experienced racism in an athletic setting.

I'll set the stage. I went for a steal of the ball and in the process, knocked it off an opposing player's leg and the ball went out of bounds.

Our ball.

As I turned to run back down the court, said opposing player called me a racial slur.

We're all adults here -- I don't have to tell you which one I was called.

But, before I could even turn around, my teammate (now John A. Logan College head men's basketball coach) Kyle Smithpeters, was already taking care of the situation.

I truly believe he was more upset that I was.

That moment will stick with me forever -- but for all the reasons other than the bad ones.

What could have been a volatile situation turned into a positive one because I knew on that night that a teammate had my back and was willing to stand up and speak out against something like that.

What happened to George Floyd is very sad and heartbreaking.

My wife, Nicole and I sat watching the video and it hurt my stomach. I felt nauseous. To sit there watching a grown man gasp for air and call out for help was riveting.

To see him struggle to what ultimately led to his death ... man, I have no words. Just sadness for him and his family.

I can only hope us as a society can be better.

Truly be better in the sense of if you see something that you know is wrong, speak up! Be a voice of reason and change.

I hope and pray things get better and the death of George Floyd will truly open up the eyes of some that things need to change. I feel better seeing more young people of all different races speaking up and being heard. The younger generation really gives me hope for change.

I also hope people understand that not all cops are bad cops. We must have police to protect our streets and our communities. I personally know many great men and women who are cops and I appreciate how they protect and serve our community.

I have done many interviews but this has taken me the longest and for sure the toughest to do.

In the end, I'm going to continue to teach my two little girls to not judge anyone by the color of their skin, but by how they treat them and others.

I will continue to teach my team to treat each other how they want to be treated.

I will continue to try to spread love, hope and a togetherness that only a few will truly get because they were a part of something special -- something that was blind to color but only judged you on how you treated others, how much you were willing to sacrifice, and how hard you worked.

I'll leave with one of my favorite quotes of all time, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

• Jake Stewart graduated from Harrisburg High School in 2002 and has been the head girls basketball coach for the past nine years.