Funnymaine, unlike others, always speaks from the heart
Jermaine Johnson has always made people think, and we’re all better at it.
It has been a week of reflection across America following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020. What has changed since then? Are we healthier as a country? These are some of the important questions asked this week.
Here in Alabama, Johnson helped create positive change with his courage following Floyd’s death, and through the power of the sport and his huge heart, Johnson continues to demonstrate the best of things in the world. State. His speech at Kelly Ingram Park a year ago Monday helped topple a Confederate statue, but Johnson didn’t stop there. We are best for his hard work over the past year and the dedicated efforts of community leaders like him. It doesn’t always seem to be the case, but simply discussing the difficult subject of racism in America is an exercise in growth. The alternative is silence, and silence is unacceptable.
As we all know, talking about race in America can be a challenge. Too often, themes of racism or racial equality are confused with politics. Johnson, however, managed to cut politics with his mix of comedy and social conscience. Over the past year, he’s reminded us that feeling uncomfortable isn’t a bad thing. It at least means that people are listening.
Last year, Johnson took the risk of stepping outside his own comfort zone of sports and comedy to speak from the heart. We’re all better at it, and his dedication is appreciated.
“We’re fighting for a better system that allows people to be as good as they can be if we step aside, let’s see how good you can be,” Johnson said earlier this spring. “I want to see this, and it’s a ‘everybody in Alabama’ thing, not a black or white or Asian thing. It’s something in Alabama.
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Also a thing from Alabama, Johnson’s popular college football YouTube videos. His hysterical presentation of commentary on the games we love is part of college football culture, and it’s appreciated too. These videos allowed Johnson to reach a more diverse audience and bridge a social divide.
The protests against Floyd’s death last May sparked a summer of change in America, and here in Alabama those changes really began when Johnson gave a passionate speech at Kelly Ingram Park on May 31, 2020. It was eye-catching The world over Birmingham and its words led to the removal of the 52-foot Confederate monument in Linn Park.
“They call me the Funnymaine actress, but my name is Jermaine Johnson. I’m from Pratt City. I’m black as hell and proud of it, ”said Johnson, introducing himself to a crowd at Kelly Ingram Park a year ago on Monday. Johnson went on to say, “They did nothing on this earth during the Civil War. Yet for some reason three blocks from Linn Park we have a Confederate statue sitting in the middle of our town to remind us to stay in your goddamn place.
After that night, the statue didn’t stay in its fucking place for long. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered his removal and he eventually disappeared after causing so much grief to the city.
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Alabama is fortunate to have young community leaders like Johnson who feared alienating some white fans by speaking out against racism. The opposite was true. People turned to his honesty and genuine nature. He says what he thinks and does it with good intentions. There is nothing wrong about it.
Others who have used the sports platform to talk about things outside of games can’t say the same, and I’m talking specifically about Clay Travis. The former sports scholar rose to popularity with fans by criticizing ESPN for reporting on the intersection of sport, race and politics. Now Travis takes over from Rush Limbaugh.
It’s rich… and shouldn’t surprise anyone. If you believed Travis, then you are a jerk. Over the past year, we’ve learned that there are plenty of them too.
Travis might have a bigger following, but you’ll never see or hear him come close to what Johnson has already accomplished. And after? More laughter of course, and more love as always.
“I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface,” Johnson said.
Good news. With Johnson, his pride in Alabama is always far more than superficial.
Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group. He’s on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.