EVENT: Join Outsports as we host Justin Rabon and Kaitlyn Long for an important, personal conversation about being black and LGBTQ in the Midwest and in America, June 9, 8 p.m. ET. You can register here.
The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests have had a powerful, emotional impact on Justin Rabon and Brad Neumann.
The interracial couple, who were track and field teammates at the Univ. of Minnesota, live together in Minneapolis. At first, they didn’t know what to do with the emotions they were feeling.
“Initially last Tuesday I was more in shock than anything,” Rabon said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was almost paralyzed and frozen with fear about the current state of Minneapolis.”
That emotional paralyzation lasted for much of last week, with Rabon crying for hours in his bedroom and looking for comfort in phone calls to his parents.
Yet late last week, as messages of support came from friends, family and colleagues, Rabon’s mood turned from fear to action.
“After seeing everyone’s overwhelming support, friends checking in with me making sure I felt safe, all my friends and work were reaching out, and seeing all the good the community was doing to come together, that really gave me the motivation to do something.”
That something came earlier this week when he and Neumann discovered there was a need for supplies and food being brought to people who couldn’t access it. With so many businesses destroyed, and still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as busses shut down, people across Minneapolis were left without the food chain reaching them.
Plus, protesters were out on the streets sometimes for hours on end with no access to food, water and other supplies.
The couple then decided to ask for donations on social media that they would use to go to the suburbs where stores were open, buy food and supplies, and bring them to centers in the city where people needed them most.
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My. Life. Matters. This has been the most trying and difficult week of my entire life. At times, I’ve felt defeated, lost, hopeless, and in some of the darkest head spaces I’ve ever endured. Thanks to the community organizers around me, wonderful family and friends, and an unbelievably caring boyfriend I’ve found my strength again. The FIGHT I see everyday here and around the country is amazing, and we can’t stop. Research, donate, vote, educate, and most importantly, listen to the black voices around you and hear our stories and pain. Sara, Brad and myself are doing supply runs for the community here Minneapolis/St. Paul, and any and all donations are very welcome in helping build this wonderful city back up. Any excess donations will be given directly back to Black orgs here in the twin cities. Do not forget, black lives matter, George’s life mattered, and spread that like wildfire! Have those uncomfortable conversation, BE THAT CHANGE amongst your friends and family who’ve remained silent this past week. Thank you! ❤️ Venmo: JayyRayy_
In just 24 hours, the couple had raised $7,000 and had done four supply runs.
Now they’re recruiting others around them — including their friend and former teammate Kaitlyn Long — to help in the effort. Any excess funds they receive will go to local community centers to help rebuild people’s lives.
“This is where I’ve found it most beneficial to me and to the community, to do organizing and supply running,” Rabon said.
Rabon said he understands people who don’t feel safe or comfortable taking to the streets in protest. He said he hopes those people will find other ways to help, including donations to efforts and organizations, educating themselves, and talking with others around them to help open eyes.
Rabon hopes to open more eyes to the role of racism in the lives of so many black people when he joins Long for a public conversation about being black and LGBTQ in Minnesota and Wisconsin. You can find more information on that June 9 conversation here.
When their shopping run was over on Thursday, they returned to their apartment grateful.
“What privilege to go back to an apartment fully stocked with food and what we need,” Neumann said. “And that puts it into perspective, that people can’t physically go get their necessities. How could we not do something?”
You can follow Justin Rabon on Instagram @Jayyrayy_. Brad Neumann is on Instagram @BradNeums.
If you’re a current or former LGBTQ high school or collegiate student-athlete, visit GO!SPACE, which can you with other LGBTQ people in sports.