Dear Derby,

I am proud to call this community my home. As a child, you supported me through both difficult and joyous times. When my mother’s body developed breast cancer, you rallied around my family. When I ran around the football field, you cheered for me with enthusiasm and pride.

When I went on to play at Oklahoma State, I still received the same love and support. After each of my three Achilles ruptures and surgeries, you were there with words of encouragement, especially when I learned that I could no longer play the sport I love.

As you may know, I try to spread the message of resilience through my talks and writings. To me, resilience is more than just overcoming an obstacle. True resilience is the ability to leverage your obstacle to make yourself better. The best way to do this is to identify the opportunity in the obstacle and embrace that opportunity.

As a Derby Panther, I led by action with few words. However, I would be remiss to not address the recent unrest in our nation and the effect that it has in our community of Derby.

The tragic killing of George Floyd was difficult for all of us, regardless of the color of one’s skin. The collective pain, devastation, and disappointment that we feel is the obstacle. Within the obstacle lies an opportunity, and we must work together to embrace it.

I admit that I am not yet confident on how to make lasting change, but I believe that thinking deeply about the communities you touch and determining how you can make an impact within those communities are a great start. I want to first share my perspective with my loving community of Derby.

The census.gov statistics for 2019 show Derby at a population of 90.7% white with a 1.5% designation of black or African-American. I call out these numbers not to show the stark differences in our community, but to further emphasize the love that I received as a black child growing up in Derby. The community was and is fully supportive of me as an individual.

You know my character.

You know my values.

You know my smile.

You know Devin.

And yet, growing up in a society where I was often the only person of color in the room was not easy. Although infrequent, I did experience both overt and covert racism from both children and adults. Graduating top of my class did not protect me. Becoming a D.A.R.E. role model did not protect me. Being a star athlete did not protect me.

My experiences make up who I am today. I have countless experiences of love that I can replay for the rest of my life; however, I want the community to know that these things still exist, even in our small loving town of Derby, Kansas.

So, as I ask myself what opportunity can come from this obstacle that we all face, I want to give two calls to action:

  1. Have empathy

    Although the percentage is low, there are still many people of color that live in and attend school in Derby. Recognize that for them, life is a bit different. All you can do is listen, try to understand, and show as much LOVE as possible.

  2. Think of what communities you belong to and act

Your community could be your sport team, bible study, or even family. Have the conversation, and get creative on actionable steps to take. There are plenty of recommendations on the web, but as an example, I used CollegeRaceDashboard.com to determine my alma mater’s demographics and contacted Oklahoma State’s president to better understand what is being done to bridge the gap. I already received a detailed action plan from the Vice President and Chief of Diversity, and I am working on ways to get involved.

There are many ways that you can make a change. Let's act together.

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