Sophia Theresa Williams was only 18 years old when, in 1956, she led the Women’s March in Pretoria, South Africa, a protest 20,000 strong against the extension of the country’s pass laws, a passport system that helped enforce Apartheid’s segregation. That was just the beginning of a life-long role as a leader in South Africa’s liberation movement.
Three years after the Women’s March, Sophia married Henry Benny Nato De Bruyn, another activist in the movement and an uMkhonto we Sizwe soldier, making him a member of the African National Congress. The ANC is the political party that was co-founded by Nelson Mandela. In 1963, De Bruyn was forced into exile in Zambia. Six years later, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn joined him, where they lived for more than two decades with their three children, until the ban on the ANC in South Africa was lifted.
Kellan Grady has only visited the site of his Grandmother’s historic march once, back when he was eight years old. He’s a born-and-raised Bostonian. His mother, one of the family’s three children, moved to the United States when she was in her 20s. He didn’t really grasp what she had done until he was in high school. He didn’t truly appreciate what she put on the line until he got to Davidson.
And now, after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbary have propelled the Black Lives Matter movement and the push for racial justice in the United States to the forefront of the national consciousness, Grady found himself driven to create change of his own.
“Social justice has always been a part of my core with what my mom and her parents did to fight for black equality and against Apartheid,” Grady said.
The by-product of that drive?
College Athletes for Respect and Equality.
With the help of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust (MIMEH) and Dr. Stacy Gallin, Grady launched his social justice initiative this week. The big picture goal of CARE is “to raise awareness about racial injustice and to promote and create change in equality,” Grady says. Specifically, however, he will be focusing his efforts on reaching and educating the younger generation.
“Our first call to action is community outreach with elementary schools,” Grady said. “And the first step is to get with athletes and get them involved and on board.”
Grady fully understands the profile and the influence that star athletes have on the collegiate level. He’s a rising senior for Davidson — one of the better programs in the Atlantic 10 and Stephen Curry’s alma mater — where he has averaged at least 17 points in all three seasons in college. He has a real chance to play in the NBA one day. Until then, he will be a star on a local level, and he knows that right now, that is where he can have the biggest impact.
“I remember how much I looked up to college players at a younger age,” he said, and that’s what he wants to build on.
What he’s looking to do is get other athletes, no matter the sport, race or gender, to join him in visiting local elementary schools. He, with the help of Gallin, will develop age-appropriate mini-curriculums that these athletes will present at the schools, lessons on the history of inequality and racial injustice, themes as simple as teaching the Golden Rule — treat others the way you would like to be treated — in the context of race.
“College athletes have a platform,” Grady said. “People pay attention to us, and a lot of us are minorities.”
Of course, these events would also include some kind of athletic activity. As anyone with kids that age can attest, holding their attention with any kind of lesson plan for too long is never going to work all that well. Using those lessons as the price to play with a local star, however, is a trade that has some potential.
So what is Grady doing now?
He’s looking to get college athletes to sign up here and join his initiative. Those that do are asked to post CARE’s logo across their social media with a sign-up link and the hashtag #CareToChange. With school out for the summer, the most important part of this initiative is to let people know that it exists.
There are plenty of college athletes that are feeling what so many around our country are feeling right now: The desire to help enact change without really know how they can go about doing it. This, Grady believes, is the answer.
The motto at the bottom of the South African coat of arms reads Diverse People Unite.
That, at its core, is the goal of CARE.
What does Williams-De Bruyn think of Grady’s initiative?
“I haven’t spoken to her about it yet,” he said with a sheepish chuckle. “She reached out to the family group chat on Whats App. I should call her.”
You probably should.
There aren’t many people in the world with more knowledge on impactful social activism than your Grandmother.