This story, written by Brandon Collins, was originally published on 12thman.com.
She could have been me, and I could have been her. This is what longtime WNBA standout and Texas A&M legend Sydney Colson thinks and feels every time she sees the name Breonna Taylor.
On July 13 Colson shared on her twitter a picture of her jersey that she would be wearing for the 2020 WNBA season. This jersey had the number 51, the same number worn during her time in Aggieland, with "Colson" underneath.
Under that, the name "Breonna Taylor".
The WNBA has launched an initiative that honors the Black Lives Matter movement and the #SayHerName campaign. The league announced that teams will wear special uniforms to seek justice for the women and girls who have been the forgotten victims of police brutality and racial violence.
Breonna Taylor is one of those victims, one of those forgotten names.
"Being a Black woman, it is going to be very emotional to be wearing that jersey," Colson said. "It isn't a far reaching statement to say that I could be Breonna, or Breonna could be me. Playing for something like that is an honor. I am hoping that every time people are watching, they won't be able to forget the name and her story."
Leadership is one of the six core values that Aggies strive to live by on a day-to-day basis. Accompanying the core value is a statement.
"The spirit of leadership is instilled in every student -whether they go on to lead in the boardroom or in the backyard -they have the values, the confidence and the experience to lead change in their world."
During Colson's playing days on the campus of Texas A&M, this leadership was clear as day for anyone that was paying attention. By the time she was a sophomore, head coach Gary Blair was calling her "the Pied Piper" of the team. She helped lead her teams to two Big 12 Tournament Championships, and the 2011 National Championship. She was THE point guard, leading her team in assists for three-consecutive seasons.
So to see what she is doing now is no surprise. On July 6 of this year, Colson was named as one of the leaders of the WNBA's inaugural Social Justice Council.
"In the WNBA we have created a social justice council," Colson said. "We just had a conversation about the things that we will implement throughout the course of our season. We won't just deal with racial justice, but with voting, mental health awareness, LGBTQ rights, gun violence and a variety of different things to help us get more educated. Hopefully once we leave the bubble and our season is finished, then we can go back into our respective communities and actually implement some change."
For Colson, she has always felt the need to speak up when something isn't right. Even back in elementary school when a friend was being bullied, she stood up.
"It has always been important to me to speak about what is not right," Colson said. "I can vividly remember back to elementary school in first grade, this kid used to get picked on constantly by this one boy. He was so sweet and he was my friend, and I stood up to that bully for him. I was telling the bully how what he was doing wasn't right."
The courage to say something has been hard to conjure during these times. However, as she did then and is doing now, Colson is speaking. And for her, it isn't hard.
"Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman. I am living this life as a Black woman," Colson said. "I have been living as a Black woman, and I will continue to live my life as a Black woman. So it really didn't take much gumption or courage to speak. What is happening is wrong and it is clear as day. And I will say whatever I feel I have to say."
When she sees Breonna Taylor, she sees herself. When she sees any Black person killed or suffer from police brutality or racial injustice she knows that it could have been her.
To Colson, Black Lives Matter isn't just a movement, it's a statement. A statement of human rights.
"Black people have been saying it in a variety of different ways for so long without being heard," Colson said. "So that was really my point that we shouldn't have to be begging you or asking you for black lives to matter. You can see throughout the course of American history that our lives have not mattered, not equally. That is why it is a human rights statement."
Something that is true of all people, is that we cannot truly understand someone's life and how they view it because we have never walked in their shoes.
We don't know what it is like until we are faced with something head on.
"A lot of the times people don't care about the things until it affects them directly," Colson said "Until it is in their face, affecting their family or themselves. Just like with what we are seeing with COVID-19 really. Unless it is somebody near you that has died, or somebody near you that has gotten sick, then you don't really believe it is a thing that is going on. It's not affecting you, so you can kind of go about your day without worrying about it. And that is really how systemic racism and white privilege are. When you don't have to care about something then it won't begin to pain you."
For Colson, her leadership is accompanied by action. She is an active voice for the WNBA on social justice and a leader on their Social Justice Council. For us, she encourages us to register to vote, and to exercise that right to vote.
"You should be informed about who and what you are voting for at all levels," Colson said. "For me this process has been an educating experience as a Black person. It has encouraged me to look more in depth at systemic racism, and to try and figure out how to attack this. What can each of us do at an individual level? With the Breonna Taylor murder, I called the attorney general. It is important to reach out and call those people or send emails."
Colson is one of the greatest leaders Aggie Women's Basketball has ever seen on the court. It is clear that it is off the court as well. As she said, she is a Black woman before she is an athlete. Colson has exemplified A&M leadership and continues to lead change in the world.