JABRAYLEN CRITTENDEN, a Shiver School student, shows off a Florida Gators sweatshirt and patch sent to him by a NYC firefighter.
A Shiver School student who encountered racism from a stranger on social media while supporting his favorite college football program, found kindness and school spirit from another stranger hundreds of miles away.
Seventh grader JaBraylen Crittenden experienced the hurtful statement after he commented on a Twitter post by University of Florida football coach Dan Mullen in late September. JaBraylen tweeted to Coach Mullen that he would like to attend a game one day, then an unknown Twitter account commented that he couldn’t go to a game because he was black.
New York City firefighter Morgan McMahon, also an avid Florida Gators fan, saw the ugliness online and reached out to JaBraylen that same night.
‘I don’t know who that person was and I’m very mad and aggravated with regards to his comments!” stated McMahon. “I live and work as a fireman in New York City. I just want to make it right by sending you a nice Gators hoody. . .I don’t believe in any of that racist nonsense and don’t like to see it.”
McMahon suggested that JaBraylen give him the address to his school, rather than his home, so he could follow through on his promise of delivering Gator swag.
JaBraylen stated to him, “I just wanna thank you for defending me I really appreciate it.”
Several weeks later, on Oct. 19, Shiver School counselor Christie Courtney, who had been unaware of JaBraylen’s Twitter experience, received a package addressed to her.
“Mr. McMahon sent a box to Shiver with his fireman’s patch and a Florida Gator hoodie and shirt. We decided to zoom with Mr. McMahon and the seventh grade class,” says Ms. Courtney.
On Tuesday, Oct. 27, after Mr. McMahon had completed a 24-hour shift on duty, he made his first zoom call and was able to watch as Shiver administrators surprised JaBraylen with the box full of Gator goods and the fireman’s patch.
“He got to see JaBraylen’s face as he opened the box,” says Ms. Courtney. “Mr. McMahon was equally as happy watching him open the package via zoom.”
Then, Mr. McMahon had a conversation with all of JaBraylen’s class.
He told the students, ”JaBraylen never responded to the (racist) post, and that shows me he has a lot of character and a lot of respect.”
McMahon said he wanted to do something to make up for the online hate.
He said, “It’s a matter of being kind to the next person; no matter what the color of their skin, how old they are, or where they live. That’s what it was all about.”
Ms. Courtney said, “It was an awesome experience! Kindness does still exist in the world. Sometimes we need to be the change that makes things good.”
JaBraylen, 13, is the son of Ashley Crittenden.