HOLLAND, Michigan — Time for One Good Thing -- someone or something that makes West Michigan a good place to live. Author Nathaniel Branden once said the first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. A young West Michigan man recently became more aware of the world around him... and has accepted the challenge to change it.
"I am a young black man. And in this country, people who look like me and have the same skin color as me, are not treated equally."
That cold reality was not always a recognized reality for Isaiah Reynolds.
"I heard all the stories about Dr King, Rosa Parks, Rodney King. They stick with me, but I never saw them live."
That changed for him last May when George Floyd's death went viral around the world.
"It's 2020. I'm 18. This is how I could be viewed in society. That could be me. It's scary."
Suddenly, he saw his own experiences as a child in West Michigan as those of a Black man in America.
"I have been followed in stores, called the n-word by people in school, and people I don't even know, sometimes when I walk into stores I have my pockets out and hood off because I don't want to look suspicious."
That new awareness convinced him to make others aware when he was asked to speak at a Black Lives Matter rally in Holland last June.
"We want to be heard, and for change to happen, it starts by doing things like this: protesting."
"We need to listen, to understand each other, more reading and more research on these things so we can become more educated and have the deeper conversations with each other."
Those are conversations the West Ottawa High School senior is now having. Both at his own dinner table... and with those whom he's hoping to educate.
"Some of my friends are white males. They would have questions. Like, how can I help? I want you guys to just walk with me."
"...it cannot be black people alone in this fight, it's gonna take every race, and every voice for reform to change."
In January, The City of Holland presented Isaiah with a Youth Social Justice Award for his speech.
"It was special."
Isaiah says the award itself still sits in box. More importantly it has provided him a larger box on which to stand.
"I took the award as a way to have an even bigger platform to speak out on racial injustices."
Isaiah Reynolds gets today's One Good Thing. Next year, Isaiah is going to Hope College. He eventually wants to go to law school, work in corporate law... and continue to speak out on equality.
If you have a One Good Thing you'd like to submit - someone or something that makes West Michigan a good place to live - email me with your photos and-or video at OneGoodThing@13OnYourSide.com.
Read and watch Isaiah's entire speech below:
"I am a young black man. And in this country, people who look like me and have the same skin color as me, are not treated equally. Black people are killed and arrested at alarming rates. But I have not always understood racism the way I do today. As a kid, I didn’t even know what racism was. I was only worried about going to recess at school, what I’m having for lunch, and what video games I’m going to play later. But the older I get the more my eyes are open to the racial inequalities in the country. I have been followed in stores, called the n-word by people in school, and people I don’t even know, sometimes when I walk into stores I have my pockets out and hood off because I don’t want to look….. “Suspicious”. Or when I’m driving past a police officer, I tense up. Not because I’ve done something wrong, but because I see on so many occasions where black people are unjustly treated and sometimes murdered by police officers. But I and all of the black people in this country should not feel this way. And that is why we are here today, to fight the racial inequalities in the country. Because enough is enough. We want to be heard, and for change to happen, it starts by doing things like this (protesting). But like many people have said, in a few weeks from now, when we aren’t protesting, that doesn’t mean the battle is won, we must continue to make our voices be heard. But it cannot be black people alone in this fight, it’s going to every race, and every voice for reform to happen."