Interns View: “A Time for Action and Activism”

Views From 90 Penn

Interns View: “A Time for Action and Activism”

by Gil Bayone

Gil Bayonne

My name is Gil Bayonne, a college graduate, former professional athlete, and most recently an intern for the Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC).  I’ve spent my entire life training, dissecting game footage, playing countless weekend matches across the world. Playing the game I love for a living, up until recently I felt as though I had found my life’s purpose. That’s when I received the phone call that would forever change my life.

Regardless of the time zone differences, I’ve always made it a priority to have daily phone or email contact with my family. However, this particular call altered my life’s course forever; my brother was being charged with a felony. Growing up a first generation Haitian-American, this call came as a complete culture shock. As a consequence of having spent the last seven years playing collegiate soccer out of state and professional soccer abroad, I naturally became disconnected with my family. Hearing that my brother was facing up fifteen years in a federal prison sent hundreds of thoughts swirling through my mind:  How could this happen? Did I put my personal ambitions before my family? Why wasn’t I there to steer my brother down a different path? I began losing my passion for the game that had done so much for me.. After my season ended in Singapore, I spent three months traveling to tryouts across the world in Vietnam, France and Israel,  pursuing another professional soccer contract to no avail.

It was during my travels, and time of reflection that I realized that soccer was only one of the gifts that God had bestowed on me. After completing my Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) exam, I began searching for an opportunity to partake in meaningful community work.  Working with LIPC has provided countless invaluable life lessons and disciplines that I will carry with me for a lifetime. Being a part of LIPC has been an extremely rewarding experience; it has allowed me to satiate my desire to pursue a career in public interest work.  Former Seattle Mayor Norman Rice once said, “Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness to pull another hand into the light”.

On March 10, 2014 my brother pled guilty to two felony charges. Some may read this and say, “just another black male incarcerated”. Indeed they would be correct in their judgments; my brother is one of the 841,000 black males currently incarcerated in the United States.  All of us have, I suspect moments of illumination in our lives that revealed disturbing realities that we had long ignored, moments that have pushed us to question and ultimately to act .The pain that many families like mine have endured should push us all to think deeply about the problems that lie within our community, and prompt us to act for as long as it takes to change our communities.

As a lifelong resident of Amityville, NY I have witness the firsthand effects of socioeconomic inequality (i.e. troubled school district, poverty, crime, etc.). Despite these challenges I remain confident that justice and equality will be found. There may not be one particular answer to problems of our communities, but through the sustained efforts of courageous organizations like LIPC we are making strides in direction towards justice and equality. Drawing from my own personal life experiences has been no easy task; however I share this information in hope of sparking a discussion that will lead to the change that is desperately needed on Long Island. Instead of casting judgment on the trouble youth in our communities, let’s spark a progressive dialogue that can serve as the first step towards a better Long Island for all.