I was a white man, raised in the far reaches of Northern California, in a rural, predominately white town.
He was a black man, raised in densely populated Southern California, in a melting pot.
We met in college at UC Davis when Dedrique transferred in from Armstrong State in Savannah, Georgia in spring 1995. We were unlikely roommates, but we shared a common bond: basketball.
Less than a month after we became roomies his grandmother died. I took the call from his dad, handed the receiver to Dedrique, and watched helplessly as he dropped the phone, fell to his knees and sobbed uncontrollably.
I picked up the phone. Ed Taylor, whom I had never met, uttered a sentence I will never forget. A sentence that has stayed with me for 25 years. A sentence that has never been more relevant than right now:
“I need you to be there for my son.”
His son. My roommate. Suddenly — and eternally — my brother.
I knelt beside Dedrique and did my best to console him. He was in pain, and I could feel all of it.
Black America is in pain right now. Incredible, unrelenting pain.
And we need to be there. We all need to be there. Shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand.
We need to listen. We need to support. And we need to act.
I did everything I could, both in that moment and in the days that followed, to be there for Dedrique.
And when my grandmother died three years later, he was there for me.
“We family,” he said.
Editor’s note: Dedrique Taylor is entering his eighth year as the head men’s basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton. His father, Ed, is in the Southern California Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association (SCIBCA) Hall of Fame.
(Dedrique Taylor feature photo courtesy of Cal State Fullerton Athletics)