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'Breaking Beariers' discussion focus on social justice reform

The Mercer athletic community gathered on Saturday for a fundraiser and to talk about how they could impact Central Georgia race relations.

MACON, Ga. — On Saturday, former Mercer football players came back to the community that gave them their education to hold a conversation on racial justice and social reform.

The discussion was called "Breaking Beariers."

Mercer athletes, past and present, gathered in Tattnall Square Park with a goal in mind.

"We must come together to conquer these small battles if we want to bring about big change," Tosian Aguebor told a crowd from a pavilion.

Aguebor was one of a few former Mercer football players that coordinated the Breaking Beariers event to stimulate the conversation on systemic racism.

"As former athletes here in Macon, we felt it was our responsibility to just give back and a way of unity to unite our community, the place that helped make us the men we are today. Just give back, educate and find a way to unite against racism because it is a problem and we need to step out against it," Aguebor said. 

Speakers focused on different aspects of issues facing America today.

Pastor Justin Brown, a former Mercer football assistant coach, asked attendants to move towards action.

"Don't just have hope, be a hope," Brown said.

"We're a voice in this community, so when people see us doing it, we hope that's going to encourage others to do it and take action," Aguebor said.

The crowd was made mostly of the Mercer athletic community including coaches Susie Gardner, Greg Gary and Drew Cronic and athletic director Jim Cole, looking to come to a better understanding about the roles they could play in bettering the community. 

"As a coach you deal with problems all the time. It's like, 'Okay, how do we correct the problem?' Being able to know those conversations and know the problems is something where now we have to correct it," Gary said.

The majority of the speakers were black, but former quarterback John Russ took the mic highlighting disparities socially and fiscally between races in Macon and what white people could do to help fix them.

"We need to work consciously and intentionally to notice, call out, and challenge institutional and cultural racism," Russ said.

Women's basketball point guard Amoria Neal-Tysor said the discussion was inspiring.

"Just building bridges and instead of wanting to do change, actually be the change and become what you want to happen. So I think that was very inspiring and very good to hear," Neal-Tysor said.

Between speeches, participants could shop or get a meal from local black businesses.

The Breaking Beariers organizing committee campaigned for weeks prior to the event.

They raised more than $7,800 to be donated to the 100 Black Men of Macon-Middle Georgia non-profit organization to help better the local community. 

Donations can be sent to their GoFundMe page.

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