Art U basketball coach, male player launch NAACP fundraiser

Krystle Evans has a word with her Academy of Art University players during a game last winter. Photo courtesy of Art U Athletics.
Krystle Evans has a word with her Academy of Art University players during a game last winter. Photo courtesy of Art U Athletics.

When protests erupted after George Floyd’s death two weeks ago, Academy of Art University guard Dante Williams was looking for more support against systemic racism. Not only did he find it, but he started an initiative of his own.

With the help of Krystle Evans, the senior woman administrator and women’s basketball coach at the school, Williams started a GoFundMe account, “More than an Athlete.”¬†All proceeds go to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“This is my first time doing anything like this,” Williams said. “Once I felt like my voice could do something, I wanted to do more.”

He took issue with Art U’s initial silence on the killing of Floyd, at the hand of Minneapolis police. As other colleges and universities posted on social media, Williams was looking for a statement of condemnation on the killing, and on racial injustice.

“I called out my school, because I didn’t appreciate how quiet they were on Twitter,” he said.

After Art U tweeted a statement, Evans called Williams, and they ended up in a long discussion. It culminated in a decision to start “More than an Athlete,” which Evans got off the ground and then Williams took the reins. The fund collected more than $2,000 by the second day. They plan to continue the fundraiser until June 19 – Juneteenth – a holiday to celebrate freedom from slavery in the United States.

“Dante has always been vocal about racial injustice issues, and speaking with him gave me the idea to acknowledge racial injustice and Juneteenth through the platform of athletes,” Evans said. “I simply helped him to structure his thoughts, and started the fundraising aspect for him to jump start things.”

Evans said both have been working hard to raise funds, as a disproportionate number of Blacks are arrested or have run-ins with police.

“Dante has been calling, texting and posting on social media to get others involved,” she said. “I have followed his lead, as well as an instructor at our school who is a former softball player.”

For Compton native Williams, the nationwide protests over Floyd’s death, and police brutality, hit close to home. He had two frightening encounters with police by the time he was 20 years old.

The first was when he was 16, and was walking to the library. Officers pulled up next to him and jumped out of their car, guns drawn. They told him he fit the description of a man who had just robbed a nearby Target.

Two years ago Williams was a passenger in a car with one of his coaches, when a police car made a U-turn to stop them. They walked up to the car, guns drawn, and had the two men sit in the back of their car.

“We asked them why they stopped us, and they said we were two inches over the crosswalk,” Williams said.

Dante Williams goes for a tough layup. Photo courtesy of Art U Athletics.
Dante Williams goes for a tough layup. Photo courtesy of Art U Athletics.

In a short video, Williams said he is a target because of his skin color and his tattoos.

“I want that to change not only for myself, but for my community,” he said.

Evans said they are asking people to donate $6.19, in honor of Juneteenth. On that day they will launch a video that depicts how athletes have always been involved in social justice initiatives. After that they will release the funds raised to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“We hope this also encourages people to look up the meaning of Juneteenth,” Evans said.