Christian Kirksey and teammates continue work in the community.
CLEVELAND — Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey and his teammates are determined to be agents for social change and know their actions speak louder than words when it comes to that quest.
Because of that, they helped host the team’s second Neighborhood Equality and Unity Summit Tuesday afternoon, where Kirksey, Seth DeValve, Jamie Collins Sr., Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Victor Salako joined forces with the Cleveland Police, emergency services and high school students from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
“I’m a part of the community. I’m a person and I’m an athlete so whenever I have this platform to really be a voice for people and spread positivity, then I want to be all on board,” Kirksey said. “I feel like it’s my job as an athlete to be involved in the community.”
The purpose of the summit is to facilitate an open and honest dialogue about social injustice, community perceptions, police-neighborhood relationships and other topics that impact communities in Northeast Ohio and, more broadly, the country. “Our whole thing is trying to bridge this gap,” Kirksey said, “and how can we help one another.”
The summit — which marks the third such event hosted by the Browns in less than a year — comes as Cleveland continues to stress the team’s ability to bring the community together, regardless of race, religion, gender or socioeconomic background.
Two weeks ago, the Browns held something of a town hall at the team’s Berea headquarters to show their players various paths toward affecting social change. In October, they helped host the first Neighborhood Equality and Unity Summit at Cleveland State, which again brought together Browns players, police officers, community leaders and CMSD students. Before that, Kirksey and Co. took part in aride-along with Cleveland police officers, using the shift as an opportunity to better understand one another and broach difficult topics.
“These guys have stepped up from the beginning,” Cleveland chief of police Calvin Williams said. “They are interested in real solutions and being part of real solutions.”
Kirksey, who has taken a lead on such efforts, said he’s seen progress since the Browns helped start this conversation last season.
“I think that since last year the biggest jump is the realness of the questions and the realness of the answers and trying to find solutions,” he said.
The hope is Tuesday’s summit keeps the conversation rolling.
“We have to continue the conversation, the next step is to go utilize this every day,” Boddy-Calhoun said. “Just as long as everyone is having this conversation, it’s always going to bring us closer.”