The images are powerful; University of Houston Student athletes letting their voices be heard after the death of Houston native George Floyd.
It was a summer day that won’t soon be forgotten, and it was all arranged by University of Houston volleyball player Alexis Cheathum.
“I actually was on the phone with my brother and I was like, ‘I think we should have a march,’” said Cheathum.
But she had hesitations.. what if people didn’t show up?
Cheatum would soon get the sign she needed.
“I believe that faith works, and God works in mysterious ways,” said Cheatum. “So Torie (Frederick) texted me and said ‘Lex, we should have a march,’ and I was like, you know what, let’s do it.”
Frederick is Cheatum’s teammate on the volleyball team. The idea between the two moved quickly; a Zoom meeting, calls with coaches, an announcement on social media. Within hours, it became a campus-wide initiative.
“Just seeing our friends at other college campuses and universities, we were like, ‘why don’t we do this for our university to bring awareness and bring everyone together,’” said Frederick.
Both say they felt the immediate support from everyone on campus.
“The fact that they were in charge of it and put it all together, I was really floored,” said their head coach David Rehr. “I thought during the event that it was like a first-class done thing, and I thought they had all this help, and it was just Alexis and Torie putting it all together.”
Cheatum may be young, but she feels that empowers her even more.
“I am young, but it doesn’t matter. Think about Harriet Tubman, she was young. Think about Rosa Parks, she was young,” said Cheatum, who also mentioned admiring John Lewis and Dr. Martin Luther King.
ROCKING THE VOTE
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was impressed with the UH student athlete march, and asked Cheatum to join a voting initiative for Houstonians. She knew one major problem was how long it took to vote.
“A working black mother only has an hour of her lunch break, right? She can’t afford to come from 7am-7pm,” explained Cheatum.
This led to a lot of brainstorming, and eventually the solution became clear; create a quick, convenient way for people to vote at TEDCU stadium. It was a massive success, with a lot of folks getting in and out in two minutes.
Cheatum knows when it comes to making a difference, often times, people don’t know where to start. Her advice? Think local.
“People are so quick to point to the president, like, ‘oh it’s his fault, it’s the senator’s fault,’” said Cheatum. “But your local leaders do so much that we don’t even talk about; that is the thing I recommend to everybody to do. If you don’t know where to start, start by calling your local representative.”