The tragic death of Ahmaud Arbery has sparked outrage across the country. The young black man, shot and killed by white civilians while jogging through a south Georgia neighborhood, has been one of many faces of institutional racism and the Black Lives Matter movement spreading across the globe. Initially, no charges were brought against the shooters, but after video of the incident leaked to the public months later, arrests were made within 48 hours.
His death has hit the Detroit Lions locker room especially hard. Arbery was the cousin of Lions safety Tracy Walker, and he was the best friend of cornerback Justin Coleman’s younger brother.
In a Zoom call with Lions media on Wednesday, Coleman shared how the death has impacted him.
“I never thought a situation like that would hit so close,” Coleman said. “I’ve seen it happen across the country. I’ve seen it happen another state over, but for it to be someone that I actually grew up with kind of shocked me.”
Coleman had spent plenty of time around Arbery, growing up in the same, small hometown—Brunswick—as Arbery. They played football together, and their families were essentially intertwined with friendships between brothers and sisters.
Since his death, Coleman and Walker have openly talked about the loss of their friend and relative, but one conversation with Arbery specifically sticks out in Coleman’s mind. It was a day in Brunswick sometime between semesters in college when Arbery was chatting with Coleman, struggling to figure out his future. He confided in Coleman that he didn’t know what his purpose in life was.
Now, after talking with Walker, Coleman realizes the answer.
“I was just thinking in my head, ‘Dang, your purpose, basically, was to start this movement. Try to change the world, because now your life does have a purpose. Your name is being continuously talked about every single day now.’”
Despite this moment of lost identity, Coleman remembers Arbery as an overwhelmingly positive person, always capable of putting a smile on someone’s face or making someone laugh. Coleman couldn’t help but smile remembering all the times Arbery complained about working out and running, and the ensuing irony of the hashtag #IRunWithMaud that emerged after his tragic killing while jogging through a Georgia neighborhood.
“He would actually run from a workout,” Coleman laughed.
As for what Coleman plans on doing to help create the change he wants to see in this world, he’s still figuring that part out.
“I’m not sure how we can create a change, but [I’ve] definitely been getting involved with things as far as, we’ve got the Black Lives Matter thing going around,” Coleman said. “We just want to open up eyes and help educate people on what’s going on, what’s really happening in this world, because we want it to be a better place.”
Justin Coleman is LIVE with the mediaPosted by Detroit Lions on Wednesday, June 10, 2020