When Colin Kaepernick began his protest against police killings of African-Americans by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, few knelt with him.
Raianna Brown, who was a member of Georgia Tech’s Gold Rush dance team at the time, took a knee midfield surrounded by her fellow dancers before a game against the University of Miami last year. Her hair was blown out in a lush Afro, she held golden pompoms in her hands at her side and she gazed downward. A photo of her in that pose was tweeted and went viral.
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It resurfaced again this weekend when scores of NFL players and a handful of owners either knelt or locked arms during the playing of the national anthem. They did so after President Donald Trump, in a speech in Alabama, attacked players who didn’t stand during the anthem, calling them a “son of a (expletive),” and saying they should be fired.
Proudest & scariest moment as a yellow-jacket happened at the same time. Thank you @Kaepernick7 for inspiring to #TakeAKnee to take a stand pic.twitter.com/iJVqHEpWx0
— Issa Rai (@freeSPIRIT_5678) September 24, 2017
On Tuesday, Brown, 22, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution why she knelt. She is an industrial and systems major at Georgia Tech and is also pursuing a dual dance major at Emory University. Brown said she took a knee after Terence Crutcher was fatally shot by an Oklahoma police officer during a traffic stop last year. The officer who killed Crutcher was later acquitted of manslaughter. Crutcher’s death drove home the reason for Kaepernick’s protest, she said.
“I kneeled in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick as a statement about the unjust killings of people of color in our country,” Brown said. “I did not kneel to disrespect the flag; instead, I sought to question the morals of the nation it represents.”
She had hip surgery in May and hasn’t been cleared by her physical therapist to perform again, though the Atlanta native hopes to do so with Georgia Tech’s dance team next fall. In the meantime, she has co-founded a dance company, whose first performance in November will address officer-involved shootings.
“When I protested, I joined countless other athletes and artists who have used their platforms to call America to become its best self,” Brown said. “Although I am no longer on the dance team, since my initial protest, I’ve continued to use art as a medium to raise awareness about the injustices my community faces.”