ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Who looks forward to starting the school day at 7:45 a.m.?
Not a lot of high-schoolers, but Hunter Rison does. The Michigan State receiver commit kicks off his mornings at Skyline (Mich.) High School with an African-American Humanities class that stokes his desire for cultural awareness.
“We talk about all kinds of stuff going on in the black community,” Rison told Landof10.com on Friday. “We go in depth about those situations, and we really evaluate what’s going on. And we don’t want history to repeat itself. For you to be able to change the future, you need to realize where you came from.”
It’s more about enlightenment than standard classroom teaching. After all, Rison already had a clear sense of the issues being faced by black people in America. The son of Michigan State legend, former All-Pro receiver and Flint native Andre Rison, Hunter has seen firsthand the suffering caused by the Flint drinking water crisis.
As evidenced by the report this week that a Gov. Rick Snyder-appointed board removed Flint’s ability to sue the state of Michigan over the scandal, decreased attention doesn’t mean problems are solved.
“I have cousins, I have uncles that really can’t drink water,” Rison said. “It kills me to know that. My grandmother lives there. Bottled water is packaged in the house.”
He’s not just talking, either. In July, Rison attended the Fresh Flint Festival to help raise awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning and funds for those affected. There, he met Michigan State freshman basketball player Miles Bridges, a Flint native.
Like Bridges, who has been vocal and active about the issues affecting the residents of Flint, Rison doesn’t want to be limited to being known for his athletic prowess. Sure, he’s a 4-star prospect and potential future Spartans star. But what’s the point if you don’t do something with that platform?
To Rison, that platform can be used positively or negatively. Ignoring it isn’t an option. There are bigger things than football, and that’s the message behind his blacked-out profile on Twitter.
“We should use [social media] as a platform, put a positive influence on people,” Rison said. “I’m done with the showcasing and stuff like that. We’ve just got to go out here as people and really live in the real world and make a difference.”
Don’t expect Rison to be silent. Not about Flint, and not about the shootings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla., Keith Scott in Charlotte, N.C., and many others that have led to outcries and protests of police discrimination and brutality.
“It kills me to know a kid, 12 years old, can be on the street and get shot playing with a toy and stuff like that,” Rison said, referencing the 2014 death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland. “There’s a lot of problems going on in this world, and I really hope to shed light.”
During his quest to help Michigan State “get over that hump” and win a national championship when he arrives in East Lansing next year, he’ll also be working to spread awareness of the social issues that he holds close to his heart.
Issues of racial inequality are in front of our faces, Rison believes. He wants people to open their eyes and acknowledge them.
“It’s not hard to see,” Rison said. “It’s not. I’m not discriminating in any way, but we both know if you see a white guy in a hoodie and a black guy in a hoodie, you’re going to have a different perspective.
“I just really hope things get better. I do.”