Bridget was one of my closest friends in eighth grade and we stayed friends during high school and into college. When I started this blog, I knew I wanted to profile her at some point.
But then something happened a few months ago that made me want to profile her right away.
“If You Can’t Talk to a Man of God About This Stuff…”
This summer brought a lot of turmoil.
As if a pandemic that has killed more than 1.7 million people across the world and 320,000 here at home — at the time of this writing — wasn’t enough, the racial strife surrounding the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery brought unrest and violence and all sorts of tension to our day-to-day lives.
We were all left searching for ways to respond, whether it was participating in a protest, being more vocal about certain topics, listening to and learning about the experiences of others in ways we hadn’t before or getting involved in another way.
Celebrities and athletes were no different. Many sports leagues found ways to respond, too. NBA and MLB teams were the most prominent as their seasons were underway when things exploded. There were several baseball and basketball teams who chose to postpone games or kneel in protest during the national anthem.
It wasn’t violent or dangerous or harmful to others. At its root, it was a peaceful form of protest.
So, it was disheartening to Bridget when a local pastor took to social media to dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement and call professional athletes whiny for taking stands against injustices they felt were happening every day and could no longer ignore.
Bridget tried to reach out and offered to speak with him about why he was seeing this response in professional sports and in cities across the country so he could have a better grasp of the situation. Instead of taking her up on it, he deleted her comment.
It was hurtful for Bridget, who spent many Wednesday nights at his church listening to his teachings as a youth pastor.
“He was always someone that was so nice and caring and funny, so it was unbelievable to see him respond like that,” she said. “If you can’t talk to a man of God about this stuff, who are you supposed to talk to about it?”
“We Have to Keep the Conversation Going”
Bridget remembers the first time she experienced racism. She was in kindergarten in Fort Smith, when out of the blue, her teacher asked her to stand up and recite the alphabet.
No other kids were asked to stand up and recite their ABCs. Just Bridget.
She went home and talked to her parents about it and they told her it more than likely happened because she was Black. All of six years old, Bridget brushed off the encounter and moved on.
One of the lasting lessons she learned from her late father Danny was that she had to be exceptional at everything she did just to be viewed on the same level as her peers.
There were other experiences like this Bridget would endure growing up, but she didn’t share this with friends, the majority of whom were white.
“I often feared that if I told them about an instance or something in the past, that I would lose some friendships,” Bridget said. “I don’t feel that way now, of course but back in high school and even college, it was tough.
“It has made me happy to see my white friends break their silence about white privilege and social justice,” she said. “But we have to keep the conversation going, no matter how uncomfortable it gets.”
For Danny Mo
One of the reasons Bridget is more open and honest about her experiences these days? It’s simple: Danny Mo.
That is Bridget’s 1-year-old daughter. She’s forced Bridget to see things in a new way and become more vocal than she ever has been about certain things.
It’s one of the reasons she reached out to her old youth pastor, and she’ll continue to be more vocal about things that matter to her. She and her husband, Stephen, live in Chicago at the moment, but their plan is to return to Conway sometime in the future. Bridget has already told Stephen, when they get here, they’re getting to work in the community.
“I may not have been able to speak up or speak out for myself, but I can damn sure do it for her,” she said.