DOVER — Instead of being interviewed by big-time journalists, Sydney Anderson may be one herself someday.
For now, however, she’s the Delaware State University sophomore who unwittingly wrote a story that sparked a national discussion on racial bias.
Since Ms. Anderson’s story on her team’s bus being stopped by Georgia law enforcement last month was published online in The Hornet Newspaper on May 4, an avalanche of attention has come with it.
The headline above Ms. Anderson’s story was a true attention getter: “Delaware State Women’s Lacrosse Team Felt Racially Profiled by Police in Georgia.”
In addition to contacts with Delaware media outlets, team members have appeared on CNN, CBS, ESPN, ABC and MSNBC, university spokesman Carlos Holmes said. They’ve been interviewed by reporters at The Washington Post, New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer.
“There’s been a lot of interviews,” said Taylor Steed, a junior on the team. “And I didn’t think we were gonna get many interviews on this, my first time experiencing anything like this.
“So, yeah, it’s kind of exhausting, but I would tell the story every time.”
There’s clearly a lot of interest in the account of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office deputies who stopped the bus on Interstate 95 for a minor traffic violation and searched the passengers’ belongings after noting that marijuana possession was illegal.
Nothing illegal was found during the search, and Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman said his deputies did nothing wrong during the contact.
Ms. Anderson’s recap was posted about two weeks after the incident, which took place April 20, and caught DSU officials unaware.
“We did not coordinate with the student newspaper nor did we know that the story was going to be published,” DSU President Dr. Tony Allen said at a news conference via Zoom on Friday.
“Still, I am pleased with the attention it has received and how the students and Coach (Pamella) Jenkins have since presented their experiences thoughtfully and truthfully in media outlets around the country on the topic.”
Dr. Allen described Ms. Anderson’s report as a “carefully crafted and thoughtful piece, supported by video footage and photos taken by the student-athletes and very consistent with the material facts of our own review.”
Ms. Steed said she was “very proud of (Ms. Anderson). She’s such a good journalist. And I’m proud of her for speaking up.”
The delay in reporting came due to timing, not a lack of interest in the topic.
“I think it was always evident that I needed to report on it,” said Ms. Anderson, a Dover High graduate who aims to be a sports or news reporter upon graduation.
“I was overwhelmed with finals and stuff so that’s why it came out when it did.”
Since then, Dr. Allen said he’s been impressed how a team with 70% Black members and 30% White have come together as one team, regardless of race. From her perspective as a player, Ms. Anderson concurred.
Looking back now on the stop, “In that moment, I knew we were being racially profiled, and I knew I had to do something about it.
“And I’m grateful that I was able to come out with the article because if I didn’t, it would have been swept under the rug and nobody would have known what we experienced in the hands of Georgia police.”
As for all the attention, Ms. Anderson said, “I would have never imagined it to go this far and get this much attention. I’m extremely grateful for everything and that everyone has supported us along the way and stood by us as we still relive this traumatic experience.”
The inspiration to write on the topic often came early in the morning, she said.
“The creative flow hit late at night around 2:40 a.m. I’d sit down and the words would start flowing.
“I feel like when having stories come from the heart, it’s more sentimental and your words are more meaningful that way.
“(The experience) was definitely very traumatic and it changed my perspective on the world and I’ll worry that next time I go to Georgia that we will be racially profiled again.
“But I’m just glad we were able to get the story.”
There’s hope, Ms. Anderson said, that the article in The Hornet Newspaper at thehornetonline.com “can help prompt awareness for situations like this. Racial incidents get overlooked because people are hesitant to speak up and I just want to stress the importance of using your voice, that you are powerful, that words are powerful.”
“It just goes to show the effects of social media and journalism, how I was able to write and how I put the words on paper and how big it got.”
If anything, Ms. Steed said, “I hope that the policemen learn a lesson from this, and hopefully they’ll work hard to change their ways. And hopefully everybody can see and hear us and change their ways as well.”