By Eduardo Encina
Published: October 16, 2018
Repost By: J. Adams, DeSean Jackson Foundation: October 16, 2018
Bucs players add support to Tampa ex-offender program
Bucs offensive tackle Donovan Smith (76) listens to Ready4Work participants Tuesday at Abe Brown Ministries in Tampa, Fla. Bucs players talked with ex-offenders who are a part of the Ready4Work program, about bias and faith, among other topics. The event was a part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recent social justice initiatives. MONICA HERNDON | Times
TAMPA — Buccaneers players spent Tuesday morning at Abe Brown Ministries in Belmont Heights listening to stories of redemption. The second stop on the team’s player-driven Social Justice Initiative schedule saw players immersed in a classroom setting alongside those currently making the adjustment from incarceration to becoming productive members of the workforce.
They heard a testimonial from Khadijah Lee, who served time for a drug conviction but through the Ready4Work Hillsborough ex-offender support program at Abe Brown Ministries now works at the Hillsborough County public defender’s office. “I think just in general, it was everyone’s openness and candidness that stood out,” said Bucs offensive guard Ali Marpet
, who is one the initiative’s player board. “It’s not easy to talk about your life story to complete strangers and the fact that everyone was able to do that was really a testament to who they are. It’s really powerful stuff.”The Buccaneers’ year-round Social Justice Initiative, which was launched last month, was created to focus on police relations, criminal justice reform, racial equality, workforce development and youth empowerment.
The program was born when players wanted to make a grassroots effort to address social injustice issues beyond the on-field kneeling during the national anthem. “These were things that were important to the players,” said Bucs co-owner and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation president Darcie Glazer Kassewitz. “They are putting this together. They are leading this. Prisons, back-to-work, empowerment for people, this is something they are very interested in. … That’s the beautiful thing about this program. It’s player-led, so it’s whatever touches their passion individually. That’s why it’s going to be so true and authentic, and why it’s going to be so amazing.”The program’s first event took players to Tampa Police Department’s Citizens Academy, where they reenacted scenarios in which officers must make life-changing decisions quickly.
Tuesday’s visit took them to a much different side to the spectrum, listening to those who have served time in jail and now are trying to overcome the stigma being labeled as criminals. Through the Ready4Work program, clients go through a four-to-six week, five-time a week career development crash course, the first step of helping them get jobs and reunite with their families. The program began locally four years ago, and of the 800 clients, 500 have completed the career development program, said Abe Brown Ministries president and Ready4Work director Robert Blount. It can be a challenge to getting clients jobs. Candidates have a 70 percent placement rate ad a 70 percent retention rate of being on the job 90 days of longer, Blount said. Blount said having the Bucs players —seven players attended the event, including Social Justice player board members Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith —visit a class offered “mutual exposure.”
Justice player board members Marpet and Donovan Smith —visit a class offered “mutual exposure.”