“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.“
– Elliott Erwitt
This quote reemerged from some corner of my mind as I looked at photos of Celtics star Jaylen Brown leading a peaceful protest in Atlanta, twenty minutes from his hometown of Marietta, Georgia. Brown was trending on Twitter (the modern day version of making headlines) for utilizing his social media presence to organize the protest, and then making the 15-hour drive home from Boston to lead it. Brown, one of the NBA’s Players’ Association vice presidents, was joined by his fellow NBAPA VP, Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, as well as G-League player Justin Anderson, and rapper Lil Yachty. It was one of dozens of protests taking place across the country as Americans continue to struggle to put an end to the pervasive and unacceptable racism that has poisoned this country from within like a cancer since long before the first cries for revolution.
And because the world is still in the throes of a global pandemic, too, many Americans watched from the sidelines of their own homes, glued to their screens. The videos and photographs being circulated spoke volumes about the state of this country, both positively and negatively. Photos of horrific police brutality, citizen looting, and the suffering of Black people juxtaposed with photos of immense love, community, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Photographer Kemet Alston of Divrs Media, whose work has been featured in Atlanta’s SaportaReport, which brands itself a “factual, nonpartisan, publicly accessible” news site, participated in the peaceful protest Brown organized this weekend, and documented the experience on his social media. His photos captured the mood, a mixture of anguish and hope, of those who attended. On a whim, I reached out to him to ask him to share his story, and he agreed to be our guest on the Girl At The Game Podcast.
Kemet, it turns out, is the grandson of Andrew Young, one of the early civil rights activists, a close colleague and friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Young went on to become a Georgia congressman, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, and served multiple terms as the Mayor of Atlanta. So for Kemet, it was a moment of following in his grandfather’s footsteps. But he preferred to speak about the present and future, not the past, and focus on his own role, not the one his grandfather played in similar scenes decades ago. Kemet told us, “Everybody has a purpose. Not everybody’s purpose is to be on that front line… Your purpose might be to donate… but for me, I sit here as the grandson of a civil rights leader, it’s like, what do I do? I’ve seen so much of what my grandfather’s done and it’s like, he had his time, now what can I do? And so for me, it’s photography… At the end of the day, everybody has a purpose.”
Despite the pain and suffering that Black people have experienced for hundreds of years and continue to endure, Kemet spoke about hope for the future. “America hears our cries. It’s beautiful how many people have come together… At the end of the day, we just want to uplift, we want to make sure that positivity comes out of this. We don’t want to go back, we just want change, we want positivity.”
Passing the mic to him was an incredible honor and learning experience for us. We promise to continue to educate ourselves, unlearn and learn, and be allies in the Black Lives Matter movement. Change starts with each of us.
Listen to the full episode now:
The One with NESN's Lauren Campbell and Barbie Girl – Girl At The Game
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Photos by Kemet Alston
Quotes have been condensed for clarity