SEMO coach Rekha Patterson delivers powerful message on injustice

Southeast Missouri State women's basketball coach Rekha Patterson instructs a Redhawk player against Harris-Stowe this past season at the Show Me Center.
Ben Matthews ~ Southeast Missourian

Athletic leaders throughout our country are taking this time to post their thoughts on the racial strife that has simmered for centuries throughout this country, and ignited on occasion, in wake of the tragic death of Minnesota resident George Floyd.

As she often does, Southeast Missouri State women’s basketball coach Rekha Patterson has found a way to set herself apart from the pack and be more impactful by doing so.

Patterson posted a video on her Instagram account (coachrekhap) in which she delivers a deep and meaningful lesson on the topic of injustice that is applicable to people from all walks of life to contemplate.

Patterson is perhaps the most eloquent, intelligent, and personable individual I have come across in my decades in this business. She is arguably the finest representative of Southeast Missouri State University that the institution could ever ask for.

When Redhawk athletic director Brady Barke was asked this spring about Patterson’s future in Cape Girardeau, he was brutally direct.

“I’d love to keep her here as long as we can,” Barke said. “If (other schools) aren’t interested in her, then they are foolish.”

If Patterson, as an African-American, “knows what it is like to fear for my life when pulled over,” and “knows what it is like to be humiliated when followed around in stores,” then this society has failed to some degree and her words can help us all be better human beings and respectful of each other.

Here is the complete transcript of her speech.

I am doing this video because I don’t want you to just read my words. I want you to hear, and see the pain in my voice and in my eyes.

I am conflicted on how to move with purpose as a black woman in America.

I recognize that I am blessed, and highly favored, and don’t really deserve the life that I have. I am grateful that God forgives and grants me grace and mercy.

I recognize the responsibility as a leader of young women, a public figure in my community, the first black head women’s basketball coach at my university, and the only black head coach in my athletic department, that means I have to do more.

I want my life’s work to be part of the change, so that my players and their children don’t live in a world where black people are murdered by the people who are paid and give an oath, to protect and serve.

I recognize that there is good and evil in this world and I try to see good in all people. But the truth is, I lack hope that many in this country will ever see, believe, and treat me, and my people, as if our lives matter and are equal.

I know what it is like to fear for my life when being pulled over.

I know what it is like to be humiliated when followed around in stores.

I know what it is like to be treated differently when people know who I am compared to when they don’t.

I know what it is like to be labeled the ‘angry black woman,’ or for it to be documented that I am difficult to work with and I’m not a team player.

I haven’t watched the videos that show my black people being murdered, because I can’t. I don’t know what it would do to my soul to see it. I don’t know how I would handle my anger or rage. So I don’t watch.

I often ask myself ‘What would I have done if I lived then?’ But the reality is ‘then’ and now are the same. So again, I am conflicted, because I want to move with purpose and do things that matter that will invoke change.

I know that I can’t change the world. But I do believe that I can’t plant seeds in the young women who choose to come and be a part of our program. But now is the time to rethink that strategy and adjust our methods.

In our program, we try to impact and empower young women through the game of basketball. To find a voice, so they understand that their voice deserves to be heard in this world.

We make our players register to vote because there was a time when we didn’t have that right. We, as in women.

We have had law enforcement come in and talk about what to do when you are pulled over.

We try to demonstrate what loving, respecting, and being kind to those who are like us, and those who are different looks like.

But is that enough?

I am now recognizing that unfortunately, that may not be enough.

We, I, must do more. But I don’t know what that more is. So just like when I am struggling with new technology, I’m going to go to my resilient and creative players and we will work together to do and be more.

To my fellow coaches, I ask: What are you going to do? Since it is said that we as coaches have the ability to impact and influence more people in one year than most do in a lifetime.

My challenge to you is to go on social media and say the words, not type, SAY the words: Black. Lives. Matter.

Then say it to yourself every day.

Say it to your family, your friends, your co-workers, bosses, (and) neighbors.

If you find yourself struggling to say these words, say them every day until it is no longer difficult. And then, when it is no longer difficult, act.

Act like my life, and all black lives, matter.

May God bless us all. Amen.

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