Kyrie Irving has been quite outspoken about just about everything imaginable.
Earlier this week, the Brooklyn Nets star point guard joined Academy Award and Grammy Award winner, Common, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Alicia Garza, Dr. Brittney Cooper and Representative Ayanna Pressley for a virtual discussion to drive action around the murder of Breonna Taylor.
The panel was hosted by Jemele Hill and discussed Black women amplifying their voices.
Check out snippets from our dialogue below:
Jemele Hill: Why is it important that we continue to uplift and draw attention to what happened to Breonna Taylor?
Kyrie Irving: First off, I want to send condolences and prayers out to her family watching her mom go and be accessible to all these shows and really speaking on things that I can only imagine how hard it is – especially to lose a daughter , friends and it’s a very sensitive time and it’s very important to speak out on behalf of all our Black Queens. It’s my responsibility to be an acknowledgement of all the things that I can do to elevate what’s happening and how I can make change; whether that is utilizing my voice or whether if it is being there and being present. But it’s very important for me because I have a young daughter. She’s four years old and. I’m raising her in this climate in this society right now and to hear news like this that is going on and females’ names are getting lost in the shuffle and there’s this attitude out here, “Hey, where are our men at? Where are our men at?” and here we are. We’re right here front and center; on the frontlines, because throughout our history our women have been on the frontlines and taking the brunt of psychological that’s been going on –I can go deep into that but, in specifics about Breonna and her family, I just really want to shed the light and spread light to all those who want to join this fight for justice because there still hasn’t been justice, and I all think that we stand in solidarity that we want to see justice and something be done in our criminal justice system that can help.
Jemele Hill: Why do you think that it’s been easier for lack of a better word to put it, to erase the struggles that Black women have had or the way that they also had been victimized by police brutality and police violence?
Kyrie Irving: Well first I think that we need to identify some of the unlawful practices that happened within the police department, in terms of there’s no body cams going in. You know, there’s no check box of what does justice look like for Breonna in this case and for our people to follow up on it…until we have to go on Instagram or we have to go on YouTube , or we have to be watching the news to understand that – I don’t want to misspeak her name but Tamika Palmer, her mom is in a “very alone place” she says. Me as a man to hear that a Black woman, a sister is feeling alone and she doesn’t feel the same support and she’s watching this George Floyd case take precedent all over the news, and then we have a campaign ‘Say Her Name’ that has been in existence even before Breonna Taylor that all would shed light on it, and this is a case that I feel like of we need to acknowledge a lot of the ignorance that still exists within our male brotherhood. Where are we to speak out against things that are going unjust against our women? And like Common said it; he’s totally right. It has been a target physically, mentally, spiritually on our Black women to have Black men; to raise Black men, to raise Black daughters, to raise Black women has taken years of that. So to hear Breonna’s mom talk, it put a different tone in my heart emotionally to where I felt like I didn’t know enough until I had to go back and do enough information digging – not from an emotional angry place because, when you hear about the police killing a Black woman…I’ll be honest with you, I wanted grab my – I wanted to go out there and just… it resonates in a different place and I want do direct it back to this. This is a great point to make of us finding solutions on how ti be better moving forward to bring more light to things like this and I don’t want to say things – to human life. Our Black women, they are literally the spiritual goddesses that have birthed ALL of us. 300,000 years ago. And here we are fighting against the justice system that can’t even identify her or give her enough light of day to know that her name matters just as much as George Floyd’s. So for me, I want to change that and listen more to others and fight in the fight so I know where I can make my power be felt as well.
Jemele Hill: I think it’s a struggle for our community to have an honest conversation about misogyny, about gender imbalance within our own community. Why is that conversation seem to be so difficult?
Kyrie Irving: We just need love as men. We come from our women and I think that I’ve had a very unique journey losing two of my grandmothers, my mom and you know, the strength of my family did come from a male perspective. I did have my sister who was the balance between all that and my little sister now; but the love of and really understanding where you stand within your own community, never turning your back to find who you are from anyone else. Your Black queens will tell you quick who you are. They’ll remind you real quick with some true honest answers and that’s all I want. As a Black man living here in society, I have been experiencing the “other” side so to say of what kind of adjusting or assimilating, adapting more or less to the ‘White World’ that as people like to call it but, I see the human condition specifically in our community of these conversations are even harder than we like to admit. As a man sitting down – as a Black man sitting down with a Black woman, you see that their struggle has been going on for so long that this tension could even stop a conversation from happening about ‘Hey I would like to see this change within you’… and us as men our egos, our pride we gotta big, bad, protective and tough and just like… inside we’re very sensitive. We just want love. We just want a motherly hug. Some motherly love and that’s my experience as I try to make change in my own ways. When I talk to my aunts, when I talk to my daughter I sit down and I ask them questions and I sit there and listen. And when I listen, I’m able to intensively answer what it means to me and go out and be a better Black man in the world. So I think it is hard to sit down, but it’s hard to address certain things that emotionally we have deep inside of us from trauma. You know, losing my mom, losing women in my life has never been an easy thing to get over. It’s painful. Especially when I think about unlawful governmental practices that have to do with breaking up my family. So, there’s been a unique and specific target on women in my family that – they didn’t get a chance to grow up. They had to grow up at 15, 16 years old. You know having kids at a very young age, grow up in the projects, raise six kids, raise this family to be better, raise the women to be strong because usually in our communities, the man is out, the woman is out…and if either one is out, then there’s an imbalance there. So I would like to talk about how does that exist when we sit down at the table with young Black men and women and older Black men and women? First to bridge the gap. I’m 28. I don’t know everything but I will act like I do. I don’t know where to start sometimes, but I have questions. And these questions only lead to truth about where I come from and how I can be better as a Black man raising my daughter, but also with the Black queens that came before me; because they’ll tell you straight up such as Miss [Angela] Davis, Michelle Alexander – listening to them speak with so much conviction because they’ve been in the fight for so long. They know what it feels to be shackled up here. Take the body, control the mind. I think these conversations need to happen a lot more and probably have a counselor in between because some of us do NEED therapy and help communicating effectively without feeling like someone’s pressing you or attacking you especially, if it’s your own family. Sometimes it can come from your sister, you dad, ‘Hey I want you do this and be more cognizant on how you help your people. You need to be doing this…’ and you’re like, ‘Naw naw naw, I’m doing it my way…’ Hey listen now, so I kind of learned the aspect more or less during this fight and turning back to my community more than ever for answers because they’re going to give it to me straight. Like, “Hey. You been buggin’ out there. Reel it in”.
Jemele Hill: What are these conversations like between Black men and Black women of your generation? Are Black men that you know of – are they aware of the misogyny happening in our community? Do they understand about some of the intricacies and issues that are specific to Black women? Like, what are those conversations like with other men your age and other Black women your age when you talk about these issues?
Kyrie Irving: I believe that I’m in a very, very grateful space –I don’t want to say special, but I’m very grateful for the men and women that I have in my life, because they’ve been able to afford me such a beautiful understanding of life and the way you treat other human beings. I watch a lot of the men that I’m aroubd; young men that we have kids whether we’re with our children’s mom or not, we have responsibilities. We provide, protect you know, some of us have daughters – it’s the most beautiful thing to see is watching Black men taking care of their responsibilities and we’re all cooking out or we’re all meeting and congregating on how we can improve one another. Now I cannot say that those conversations are the same when I’m sitting down with the queens in my life. Especially the special lady in my life, where I’ve learned she was raised to be psychologically independent emotionally. She is not in a space where she needs a man, but she knows what she wants and knows she needs in order to be a better version of herself. What serves her true purpose is what’s going to make her bloom like a beautiful flower and I really see it in that sense in the relationship now is I had to do some soul searching to really approach her in a way to be able to understand that even when she was telling me that hey, let’s have a conversation on how we better ourselves. I think there are ways that we can both more understand about each other, I think I was raised to be psychologically dependent on people around me. And as a man I was raised that way to be a strong man, independent but as well I know I needed dependency and some other form or fashion for me to be self-confident. I took a while for me to step into that. Now women on the other hand, especially Black queens they step into that very early. I can’t say that there was reassurance, because I have seen some queens where they come to us men to ask Black men to ask and I learn more about you and to understand you. But don’t think that there are enough questions from us coming to Black women unless it’s a special women in our life, we don’t have these conversations with our friends. You know, as much I would like to have these conversations but when we’re in a setting where we can talk openly, and that there isn’t type of attraction that of we’re sitting here to talk about improving one another; sitting here and actually having an intent not just to hang out and, ‘Hey, we saw each other and this..’ sitting here and just having an intent, I think that’s the biggest thing that is driving me is “Let’s sit down. Yeah let’s have a drink or two but, let’s talk about the real life social climate and how we can be better moving forward” because our brotherhood and sisterhood doesn’t really matter. We know when the masculine and feminine are balanced, it’s a beauty in life so you can’t have one without the other. And as I learned is you have to almost throw yourself in those uncomfortable conversations to really understand to what a woman really goes through on a day in and day out basis. They wake up every single day; most of them want to be called beautiful and want to pushed, some of them don’t want to be pushed, and I don’t want to speak in terms of a broader – for every woman that I’ve met, but the special ones in my life and also you Jamele I talked to you before the call, I’ve witnessed you take the stance on something you believe in and seeing women doing that, we’re natural admirers as Black men. We’re like, “Man! If we had the guts like Nina Simone come out with Mississippi Got Damn…” we’re watching our women stand in front like, ‘We’re tired of White people hanging Black people from trees! What are we going to do about that people?’ Other men jump to the forefront, “ Nina Nina Nina…” that’s the same route that I believe we need to employ now is having those queens, having a counsel of strong Black queens that you can count on and you can ask and there’s nothing else that they want to give you except knowledge and truth of self. So as we refer back to even Breonna Taylor and her name, we have to shed light on her mom, on her younger sister that’s going to growing up because this memory won’t be going anywhere. This pain will exist within them but the community that they come from that we all belong to, will understand. We will open up with big arms – come on home, and we need to have that ecosystem where we do have our own therapists that we can depend on. We do have our own criminal justice system that we can depend on. That we do have patrolling in our neighborhoods that represent us, not continuously not naming the elephant in the room, but it’s there. Black women are disenfranchised. It’s marginalized. We get it. Okay, they’re going to continue to speak. Us men, let them do their job, ‘Hey, how can we support?’ We need to elevate this and when we have chance to speak on it and I think I haven’t done the job that I wanted to do in my responsibility to speak up on these things. But now that I do, I’m here full and front force to be that voice, to be that platform…whatever’s needed from me to afford opportunities that I had access to just by being a Black man. They gave me opportunities just because I could put it in the hoop. I was like, “Okay, this is nice “ and then we’re watching Black women become entrepreneurs in cosmetics lines and we’re watching their ecosystem build and their supporting each other through thick and thin because the struggle is real and it wouldn’t be fight without our males and females being side by side. So that’s the hope I have in all of this when I sit down and talk with people my age now is like bringing up all these things in one fashion or another and actually having these honest conversations on how we make change.
Jemele Hill: What does Black men’s involvement and pursuing justice for Breonna Taylor — what does that look like to you?
Kyrie Irving: Justice for our Black men in terms of Breonna Taylor is more importantly getting those officers fired, arrested and prosecuted and seeing their justice. That’s really where I’m at. I don’t want to sit here and sugarcoat anything like it was really gut-wrenching to hear about that story and like I said in the beginning of the call, to hear about all those unlawful practices and I think that they’re trying to get a bill passed as well – the Breonna Taylor Law and to make sure that – like Common said, there aren’t any more Breonna Taylors or Sandra Blands or countless other women that in the last three years that have lost their lives on where is the right information so we can petition and we can protest and we can go in there and talk to the Attorney General, just like we’re seeing now. And the fact that it’s been a hundred and something days, and there still hasn’t been any justice is angering people. People are still showing up. I saw Common speaking there, as well as others posting continuously every single day because, Black Lives Matter but this is more than a movement. This is a revolution that has been underground and now it’s on top and now we’re all back around the way, and all our information education is aligning and now we’re all starting to get this machine going to do our parts individually and then coming then coming to the collective with your ego down and knowing like, I’m here to learn and how can I help. So I think justice can exist in many different ways but specifically fpr me, it’s doing my part not just being this six time NBA All-Star or this NBA Champion or everything that I identify with I thought my legacy was going to be about. This has taken a whole new turn. My interest has shifted not just to Breonna Taylor but, what’s going on in the WNBA. What’s going on with our Black sisters there. They’re going down to – they have injustice going on in their work practice. They have things going on. So I was completely not aware of how many of us of our sisters have the same competitive drive that I do but, don’t get the same opportunity or same justice on their end. They’re producing life and they have to go overseas and they have to – or they can only play over here. These language injustices as well, against women exists not just in my industry, but all over. And we can say it’s fair and everyone can say, we’re doing what’s best for the players, but we’re looking at women making hard life choices based upon survival. And to see our Black queens in survival mode is like – I’ve been there, I’ve seen people in my family deal with that so, there’s a bigger picture for me to utilize what I’ve done in my career; not just basketball, but as a man. You know when I sit down and talk with Natasha Cloud or I sit down and chop it up with Renee Montgomery and I hear about them and what they’re doing to fight against social reform and social injustice, they are at the frontlines. They’re schooling me like, ‘Hey look. We want you to this, this and this’ and I’m like, “Okay, I’m there. Count me in.” That’s all we need to hear is like, ‘Hey I’m gonna be there and I’m gonna be present for you and I’m gonna show up.’ I think that that’s where I’m at is – with my 24 hours not being dedicated to thinking about how many plays, or how many baskets I’m making, or what’s going on in terms of who I’m competing with and it’s like I’ve finally had a chance to liberate myself to see exactly what was going on in the world and how our Black women can be so supported until I’m not on this Earth anymore. That’s my duty, that’s my purpose. Basketball is a great vehicle to be able to have the means to get a lot of capital, but even when you think about the capital in that sense the WNBA is getting 400% less and making due – I put in simple perspectives like that. I’m ok. My family’s okay. I’ve done my job as a Black man to educate myself now, so what am I going to do with it? Take it to the streets. Get the grassroots. Get all of our Black supporters and all of our communities and really start talking about what change looks like but also, we can’t have this moment without talking about the indigenous liberation movement as well, which is the Native Americans that existed before what human rights and human conditions looked like or colored people. What I want to do now is, not only be a part of the responsibility of bringing justice to Breonna Taylor but also for different industries and handling my responsibilities to make change as well and listen to how – hey, these unfair practices exist. Not just in the police department. They exist in the corporate world for a lot of our women not getting a lot of the executive roles – We’re talking about hey, we want more Black men in executive roles in the NBA, we want this over here…no, we need more female Black executives running so that the trickledown effect starts to happen so that opportunities start to open up for employment so there’s less things happening in our community and we have more entrepreneurial spirited people that can not only speaking on it, but are doers. It’s one thing that I noticed about this that it’s great to talk about the ideas that we can change for our community but, it’s another thing speak on the behalf and then go out and put in the work daily. Like, my days were swamped with hours trying to think about how I can master this craft of basketball and now it’s like, I wonder what my life would look like when I discipline myself and educate myself to what this fight truly is and how my purpose can be aligned with my Black queens being the leaders of the future. I know my daughter Azure Elizabeth was meant to be a leader of a revolution. But more or less, in evolution – and in you have evolution as many people think there’s love. So at the end of it it’s like, continuing to pour love into our Black queens as much as I can.
Jemele Hill: Can we even begin to achieve liberation or talk about liberation unless we have meaningful agenda specifically for Black women?
Kyrie Irving: It’s so hard to answer that question with one answer, so I’m going to do my best to get down to the points. Liberation looks different for everyone like you said and I think what I’ve learned throughout my life is that there have been so many attempts of one person being the leader of – what’s the agenda and what is everyone going to agree to and I think just having general perspective on where Black women’s values is and will always stay in our community, that needs to be a part of our principal list that we live by no matter what. A lot of things that separate me from other people that I meet is simple principles. It’s not anything outside of that, it’s really my core principles that I’m developing every single day and as I think about the queens in my life, it’s always keeping it in perspective. What I would like to see is more community efforts to bridge the gap, not only through capital but just socially. If we’re going to say we’re going to invest in a particular project that is for our Black queens or for young Black queens that are growing up and we’re raising them, and they’re in an environments that are safe and they are aware of the dangers out there of just being a woman in general, but they are also able to articulate what they mean and have the team behind them to do it for them. We see a lot of young women that start from ground up and they build a whole entire empire and they’re independent and they’re doing it themselves and they’re in competition with other men. Like other Black men. For what? Why are we competing with our Black women even if their stories don’t match ours or anything like that? They are our Black queens. They made it. Look, how can I adjust my frame of thinking to be an ally for you, a brother to you…so, I don’t think it’s one particular answer but our Black women need to be able to lead that space and be able to lead it in numbers. I don’t mind personally putting down – my personal opinion on things if it means it’s better for the collective especially if we’re talking about the queens. I’m always going to call them queens because we are running a kingdom present day. This is just taking the time to build ‘Wakanda’ all across America so we have technology, so we have the social issues that we’ve already dismissed in our own community. Because I think it’s hard not to address a lot of the abuse that can happen in a woman’s life that can deter her from doing things because a male in her life did something that was f’d up and she didn’t recover and she was never the same queen again. I don’t lke stories like that and I don’t like seeing young women like that, I don’t like seeing older women like that especially when – I say us men need a hug, women need to be protected and shielded as well from the dangers that exist of being a Black woman out here. The way they have to move sometimes is just so isolated sometimes secluded because, they have a distrust for what’s going on. I’ve been around enough young Black queens to know that this is the sentiment; hey you guys are here when it serves you. You men are there when it serves you and what your purpose is, but as we say we want to do something we have your back then and you go out and get a woman from another race..for what? I don’t think that I’m gonna make it a racial thing but it is a barrier that exists between us psychologically as men depending on our Black queens giving us what we need. So I would like to see us be more strengthened in numbers and especially with my own practices in my own life. My foundation that I’ve maybe started combining and getting all the pieces together has seven Black women running it. Seven! Let’s get twenty! I feel like for me, they’re always, ALWAYS going to keep it real! There is no room for b.s. between, ‘Hey Kyrie, you said you was going to do that, right? Okay.’ They hold me accountable in a way that I can be my best self. I can smile. I know that I can be sensitive and free. They’re gonna laugh with me and also they’re going to laugh at me. They’re going to tell me the truth over and over again every time a wake up and I get to be a part of them raising their kings and actually having something to do with shaping their lives. And being myself. You know, that’s the best thing about this whole life as I just come into my awakening as you mentioned Jamele was here’s what success looks like for me when I was in 4th grade thinking this is what I want my life to be and then at 28, let me get my sister involved with Nike. Let me get her involved – and her shoe is coming out and I just let her take my whole canvas of the shoe and it was the first time in Nike’s history where it was a brother/sister tandem, but I’m pretty sure it was the first time Nike history that a brother and a sister came together and combined and did something that has capital consequences if we don’t do it well. And the trust that I have in my sister, is elevating her to go out – hey this is on your resume, I’m happy that I could do this. I’m happy that I could be partner with you. I have some many examples; such as Jewell Lloyd. kyrie So, I’m creating opportunities whether it is in management or agencies or whether it is in what we like to think in capital world of deals. Like, how can I invest my money with the W? How can I start a fund that supplements a lot of the WNBA’s salaries if they so choose to fight for social reform because I do understand that this financial game is built on racism and capitalism. It’s one or the other. You can’t have one without the other and you’re thinking the gender roles; I would like to be partnered up with so many greats that believe in that alignment and go out and do it.