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Izaiah Tyrone McNeill - 2020 Award Winner

Izaiah Tyrone McNeill, born and raised in Rockland County New York: Parents are Tyrone and Lucinda McNeill, with one older brother Ryan McNeill. I grew up in New City, attended and graduated from the East Ramapo School District. My parents kept my brother and I involved in the church, community and sports which I still remain when possible; given the new world we live in. I started getting into sports like football, baseball and basketball at the age of 4. While at Pomona Middle School, I was a starter on my 2nd undefeated football team. Football has become the main sport I chose to play. At Ramapo High School I played on the junior varsity team then was moved up to varsity toward the end of my freshman year. I also was part of the Drama Club stage crew for two years.

From my sophomore year through the remainder of high school, I was a starter on offense, defense and all special teams for the varsity football team. During my senior year I was captain and went to the All-star game for seniors, won All-league, All-section, Honorable Mention All County, awarded the Team Leadership Award and became a member of the National Society of High School Scholars. I graduated Ramapo High School in June 2020 with a Regents Diploma, now attending RCC (Rockland Community College) majoring in Business Administration online due to the pandemic, looking to transfer to Winston-Salem State University and continue my studies, plus minor in Computer Science and play football in the fall of 2021.


The emergence of The New Jim Crow touches on the problems that Black communities have to face every day. There are constant attacks on Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and numerous legislative acts that made systemic racism illegal.

Growing up as a young Black man, I now understand why I was taught by my parents and the elders in my family and community that I was born with a target on my back, and as Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr once said: “American society made the Negroes color a stigma”, thus less than or criminal by sight. This is how those in power put a ceiling on what I can do and achieve simply because of the color of my skin. People prejudge and have hatred because of skin color, and Black people have always been taught that we must work twice as hard to get half as far. Our safety as Black people have never been equal, and it is now being shown more in this era of technology. The world is now seeing up close and personal what many Black communities actually experience everyday: simply walking down the street is dangerous because the Black skin color is seen as a weapon or suspicious by nature to some closed minded police officers. Anything in hand is a potential weapon, and actions are taken without questions asked, unlike the privilege of White people receive even when they are a threat and actually have weapons. The media and racist people love to say what about Black on Black crime as to excuse the abuse of authority by police as if there is no White on White crime. Play on words shape perception, we see the media use this tactic constantly: Black crime is gang violence, and White Gang violence is people just out of control. The media is complicit in fanning the flames of division with subliminal and negative characterizations of Black people, while minimizing their characterizations of White people.

I believe Black police officers can continue to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the Black communities by educating and holding their colleagues accountable for subtle and overt discrimination. White people must begin to see how their negative demeanor and aggressive actions affect Black people. They must learn how to see Black people as they would their fellow: neighbor, community member, church member, and human being with the same aspirations and concerns they have.