Johnstown graduate and athlete reflects on social injustice and racism through poem


JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WTAJ) — If you hear the name Gershon Simon, his game winning shot against Bishop Guilfoyle in the LHAC Championship game for the Greater Johnstown Trojans may come to mind.

But the Penn State-Altoona bound player and student is speaking out about more than just basketball.

“We’ve been dealing with it since we were born, I mean it’s just what any African-American man has to deal with when they’re born in the world like this,” said Simon, Gershon Simon, Greater Johnstown High 2020 Graduate.

In light of the killing of unarmed George Floyd in Minnesota early last week, Simon wanted to speak out against racism and social injustice.

He says he doesn’t experience while in Johnstown, but when he traveled elsewhere for basketball games, is where he would encounter prejudice.

“When I go out to certain places, outside of Johnstown, I get called names and stuff like that but i just handle it in a high fashion,” Simon added.

“I don’t say anything back to them, because it’s just going to make it worse, so I handle what I have to handle by beating them on the court.”

And he takes that mindset into everyday life, responding to George Floyd’s killing through poetry.

Simon sat down and wrote “Why Can’t I” a nine line poem chronicling his feelings living as a black man in America.

He says it was an accumulation of situations similar to George Floyd’s, but says his death pushed him to write and share it on social media.

“For the people that haven’t spoken up yet, maybe it gives them a little bit more courage to actually talk and do things their-self, because if they see me do it, and that’s for the African-American people,” Simon explained.

“For the white people, I mean I received some hate already, and it’s only been out for three or four days, there’s just going to be ups and downs to whatever you do in life.”

Simon has received support from teammates, his new and old coaching staff, along with many others.

He hopes the protests happening across the country is continues to push for equality.

“If you do the same thing as me, then we should get the same thing, it shouldn’t be any different because I’m darker.”

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