This Father’s Day, we reached out to a number of our sports landscape’s prominent African-American dads to talk about the ongoing quest for racial equality.
Noah Lewis Jr. had every intention of explaining to his 10-year-old daughter what he called the “lopsided nature of policing.” On June 2, she got a real-life example.
The day started with the 31-year-old assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Tech football team marching through Riverview, protesting police brutality alongside Aubrey.
“We were kind of towards the back of the crowd, and there was a line of Hillsborough Sheriff’s cars that were kind of pacing the crowd in the back and she needed to tie her shoe,” said Lewis, also a network engineer. “We noticed she kept looking down and she would look back; she was just scared.
“She didn’t want to get arrested or something, or she didn’t want the cops to get her if we stopped moving. And that was disappointing to hear.”
Nothing happened to Aubrey, but later that day at a separate protest in Tampa, Lewis was arrested. He said protestors were being “corralled” by police when chaos broke loose: “tear gas started going off, the rubber bullets started flying.”
“They were yelling ‘Down!' and we complied. And that’s how we ended up getting arrested.”
He wrote a letter to Tampa mayor Jane Castor outlining his complaints about his treatment that night — the first time he has even been arrested, which he called “mentally scarring.”
Lewis never really put racial tensions and events that led to his arrest in his daughter’s face, but he never hid things from her either.
“Truthfully, I fear more obviously for my son than I would my daughter.”
Noah III is a year old and named for Noah Sr., who died when Lewis was 13. Lewis said he didn’t have the best relationship with his father, but being a junior, he wanted to pass on his name.
Lewis believes that if people can learn to empathize — not just sympathize — with the struggles that he has had as a black man, Aubrey and Noah can live in a more tolerant world.
“Given the time that we live in, the effort that it’s going to take to break a system, it almost seems so insurmountable at times. I don’t say that in a defeated way or in a way that I don’t think it’s possible.
“I know it’s not something I can look forward to in my lifetime; I can look forward to it in my children’s lifetime.”
Contact Kyle Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @Kkylewood.
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Coverage of local and national protests from the Tampa Bay Times
WHAT PROTESTERS WANT: Protesters explain what changes would make them feel like the movement is successful.
WHAT ARE NON-LETHAL AND LESS-LETHAL WEAPONS? A guide to what’s used in local and national protests.
WHAT ARE ARRESTED PROTESTERS CHARGED WITH? About half the charges filed have included unlawful assembly.
CAN YOU BE FIRED FOR PROTESTING? In Florida, you can. Learn more.
HEADING TO A PROTEST? How to protect eyes from teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.