Samuel Austin Evans, L.E.A.D. Ambassador Alumnus, shares solution-based Safe at Home Game with cohorts at 2019 PossePlus Summit Town Hall: State of Our Union.
L.E.A.D. Ambassador Alumnus, Samuel Austin Evans, is a Senior Marketing Analytics Major at Texas A&M University. He is a Posse and Gates Millennium scholar which cover his cost of attendance at Texas A&M University, both scholarships have less than 4% chance of obtaining. Austin earned his L.E.A.D. Ambassador scholarship in his 10th grade year at George Washington Carver Early College High School. He graduated from New Schools at Carver and L.E.A.D. in 2015. Austin credits L.E.A.D. with a lot of his success today.
Austin is carrying forward what he learned from L.E.A.D. and has adopted L.E.A.D.’s mission to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta.
Watch this video to witness his commitment as he responds to questions posed at The Posse Plus Summit: Town Hall Meeting on The State of Our Union moderated by Emmy award winning journalist and author Frank Sesno. Austin is solution based, and gives props to the Safe at Home Game for being a solution to bridge the divide between Atlanta’s Black community and its police officers. He believes that the Safe at Home Game is “creating a sense of community, a sense of love and respect between the police and the young kids.”
Frank Sesno: So. Very interesting. Let’s dive into some of the issues now, because you’ve all got a story. You all come from someplace different. You all have aspirations.
The State of the Union, when you were asked that question, you were asked how is the State of the Union, you answered in this way. Back. There. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country? 95% of you said you were dissatisfied. Can you tell us about that a little bit? Why are you dissatisfied? What are you dissatisfied in? What is upsetting to you, or at the core of this? Let’s start here, and we’ll move around.
Samuel Austin Evans: Hello, my name is Samuel Evans. I’m a rising senior at Texas A & M University. So going back to the survey, going back to our retreat, we had something during the PossePlus Retreat called the No-Talent Talent Show. During this No-Talent Talent Show, I presented the spoken word. My first line of the spoken word was, “The State of Our Union, what about the state of my block? Why do I have to walk to school in conjunction with worried about being shot?”
I say that to say that in the Atlanta where I’m from, 30310, 30314, 30318, make up 80% of the Georgia prison population. You have a 4% chance of ever leaving Atlanta if you grow up in poverty. About 60% of Atlanta Public Schools is impoverished. So the numbers are against us.
Frank Sesno: You grew up in Atlanta.
Samuel Austin Evans: Yes, sir.
Frank Sesno: Did you worry about your safety when you walked to school?
Samuel Austin Evans: Yes, sir. It’s definitely something where you worry about your safety, but I feel as though as a Posse scholar, I’m not problem-based, I’m solution-based.
To speak to that solution, we created something working with L.E.A.D. Atlanta, which stands for Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct, to be quick. So we created something called the Safe at Home Game. So it allows kids in this zip code to play baseball with the local APD and build good relationships between the police.
Frank Sesno: Are the roots of your dissatisfaction about safety and opportunity and inequality from what you’ve experienced and seen in your community? Or is it bigger than that?
Samuel Austin Evans: I think it stems from my community, because I see a lot of things go on in the state of our union, but I don’t see a lot of things change the paradigm.
Frank Sesno: I want to move through a variety of issues quickly that you raised in your PossePlus Retreats and in these conversations when you’ve thought about the state of the union. You’ve talked about crime and guns. You’ve talked about education, educational opportunity. You’ve talked a lot about incarceration. You’ve talked about climate, all right? Now, we’re not going to dive deep in each one of these, because each one of them could be its own Town Hall like this. But we’ve now talked about a number of things, and we’ve teed up both your frustrations, your disappointments, your dissatisfaction with where the country is going, your hopes for it. So let’s go into some of these for a minute, more than a minute.
Guns and crime. How can we involve the community? This is Brittany McBride, Boston University. Where’s Brittany. Right here.
“How can we involve the community in holding the police accountable for their actions in a way that can bridge the community and law enforcement?” Who’s got an idea on that, an answer on that, a suggestion on that? Yes? Go ahead, and then we’ll come to …
Samuel Austin Evans: Just speak on that. So what we did in the … Oh, Samuel Adams, Texas A & M, rising senior, graduating in December.
So to that I would say we created something called the Safe at Home Game. So often, kids like me, I’ve experienced police brutality in my own-
Frank Sesno: You experienced police brutality?
Samuel Austin Evans: Yes, sir, I have.
Frank Sesno: Personally?
Samuel Austin Evans: Yes, sir.
Frank Sesno: What happened?
Samuel Austin Evans: What happened was, I was driving late night. I happened to be driving. I didn’t turn my lights on on my car, to speed through it. Didn’t turn my lights on in my car. Made a mistake, got pulled over. Soon as I got pulled over, the cop realized that it was two black males in the front seat. He walked to the front of my driver’s seat with his hand already on his gun. I could see him as he was walking up.
Frank Sesno: You saw this happen.
Samuel Austin Evans: Yes, sir. I’m …
Frank Sesno: Scared?
Samuel Austin Evans: Well, I was definitely terrified-
… and then what was crazy about it, the car was a brand new car. He said that, “We’re going to go ahead and give you a warning, but we want you to step out of the car.” We’re like, “For what?” You know what I mean? And I didn’t mean to, I guess, ask that question. Then he was very enraged that we were just confused about why we were having to step out of the car. Then through us being kind of confused, that created a whole situation where he … I stepped out of the car, and then immediately he put me in handcuffs. He was like, “I want to detain you, because I want to just search the car to make sure nothing’s going on.”
We were on like a back street kind of road. He was like, “I’m not sure why you all are over here. So I’m just going to go ahead and search the car and find out if there’s anything in the car,” and this and that. So then I was very confused, I was shoved onto the car with my hands still in cuffs. Now mind you, I’m a Posse scholar, Gates Millennium, scholar, an Ambassador to my city, and a Eagle Scout. So I was very confused as to why …
They say like, “Hey, black boys are doing this and that,” but I have definitely tried my best, despite my community, to do the best I can. I’m still in this situation. So long story short, luckily I’m still here today. The other cops had pulled up. What was crazy about it is, is not even that the officer was a black male, that-
Frank Sesno: The officer was . . .
Samuel Austin Evans: The officer was a black male that initiated it. That was a black male with a white officer. So the white officer was kind of telling … The black male was the one initiating to the white officer that, “This is what I do.” You know what I mean? It’s too emotional of a situation, just long-winded but-
Frank Sesno: I can appreciate, but I think it’s very powerful that you share that story as you go into what your thought is on this.
Samuel Austin Evans: Yes, sir.
Frank Sesno: How do you answer Brittany’s question about-
Samuel Austin Evans: To answer Brittany’s question, I think that young ones like myself growing up, it’s a subconscious thing that has to happen with the police, between the police and the young kids. Which means that they have to understand that the police are an ally. They have to see them that way, because we are conditioned to believe that they aren’t an ally. Why would I call the police, because they come late, this and that.
What we created was, we created something that would lead called the Safe at Home Game, where young kids in these impoverished communities, area codes, are allowed to play baseball games with the Atlanta Police Department. What this is doing is, it’s creating a sense of community, a sense of love and respect between the police and the young kids. So now, these police officers are starting to see these young kids as human beings, as young kids, as things like that. Because so often as a black male, I don’t get that same context or that same trust as a human being.
Frank Sesno: Did you initiate this, or did you and a group of people?
Samuel Austin Evans: Yes, sir. So I work with someone named CJ Stewart, a mentor for me in the Atlanta community. He also works with the Posse Foundation. I was an alumni with this organization, and so through me being ambassador to my home city, we worked in conjunction.
Frank Sesno: You had your hand up, go ahead.
And by the way, amazing story and huge respect to you for the way you responded to that situation.
Samuel Austin Evans: Thank you, thank you.
Frank Sesno: Not just with restraint and in the moment, but with leadership coming out of an incredibly difficult situation. So thank you.