Mason Holgate is embracing the opportunity to help inspire future black leaders in the Liverpool City Region.
Everton defender Holgate is participating in October’s You Cannot Be What You Cannot See campaign, a joint collaboration between anti-racism charity the Anthony Walker Foundation and Open Media, to coincide with 2020's Black History Month.
The initiative is designed to celebrate current black leaders in the city and inspire future generations.
Everton defender Holgate is one of a number of prominent figures, including Lord Mayor of Liverpool City Anna Rothery, lending their voices to the campaign.
The Anthony Walker Foundation (AWF) was established in 2006 following the racially-motivated 2005 murder of Anthony in Huyton.
Holgate, who experienced racism growing up, is pledging his long-term support to the charity and last week joined a call with Anthony’s mum Gee and sister Dominique.
“They are very good people and very strong,” Holgate told evertontv.
“It is remarkable [the change they are effecting], the story is horrendous, and for them to come out this side and be so strong and positive and working so hard to try to right some wrongs shows the kind of people they are.
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MASON HOLGATE Q&A
“It hit home when you realise it wasn’t so long ago [Anthony was murdered].
“The conversation was about how to get involved and do all I can to raise awareness and help moving forward.
“It is something I am very interested in doing and I am going to try to help in any way I can.
“I want to be part of getting the message out there… although it’s better than it was, things are not where they need to be.”
Holgate’s image is positioned on billboards across the city this month, with an accompanying message urging people to “celebrate your heritage and be proud of who you are”.
The 24-year-old, who signed for Everton in August 2015, drew inspiration from black Premier League superstars Rio Ferdinand and Thierry Henry as he progressed thorough the academy at first club Barnsley.
Now taking his turn as a role model for young black footballers, Holgate is encouraged by his sport’s concerted effort to tackle racism.
But he insists racial equality needs to remain a live subject for progress to continue.
“It is nice to be able to think, even if it [Holgate’s participation in the AWF initiative] affects only one person, I’ve helped someone or given someone a bit of direction,” said Holgate.
“That was something I needed when I was younger, so to be able to pass that on to the younger generation is massive.
“It is a responsibility everybody needs to accept, to keep things moving in the right direction.
“We need to keep pressing on and keep on top of it and make sure everybody is alert and speaking about it.
“Until it’s not an elephant in the room.”
Everton launched its All Together Now campaign, celebrating and promoting equality and diversity in 2018.
The Club formed a relationship with the AWF, which has provided racism awareness training for stewards and matchday staff and delivered anti-racism sessions to Everton Free School pupils.
When Moise Kean joined Everton from Juventus last year, the Club supported fans group The County Road Bobblers in their effort to produce an anti-racism banner to welcome the Italian to Goodison Park after he suffered racist abuse while playing for his former team.
“It was massively positive to be able to see your supporters are so against racism," said Holgate.
“It wasn’t with us Moise suffered that abuse but to know they were still behind him was massive.
“It shows everybody is one and together and people are pushing in the right direction to keep things at the top of people’s minds so they don’t forget and we can progress and move through it.
“I did experience racism. I think everybody [from minority groups or cultures] does, in their own ways.
“But you have to go back only 10 or 15 years and things were very different from now.
“We are making good strides towards where it should be – but it is not there yet.
“It is going to take a lot more effort and keeping the subject in the limelight.
“In some situations [as a child] I didn’t feel comfortable challenging it [racism]… but there were other situations I was in a comfortable environment and would challenge it.
“Now, whether or not I was in a comfortable environment, it wouldn’t matter.
“I am more confident and grown up and know what things mean.
“That would lead me to challenge it.
“When you are young, you don’t really understand so don’t say that much.
“It’s not until you go home and speak to your mum and dad, you realise it’s not acceptable.”
Is right, Louise 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 https://t.co/vFwnJ7RYeV— Anthony Walker Foundation (@awf_liverpool) October 27, 2020
The movement for racial equality gained worldwide traction and momentum following the death of George Floyd after unarmed black man Floyd's neck was knelt on by a white police officer.
Holgate was taken aback by the episode in Minneapolis five months ago – and insists conversations around equality and acceptance and tolerance must be sustained.
“It [his reaction to Floyd’s death] was disgust that these things could still be happening,” said Holgate.
“When you break it down in your head, it is confusing… you are confused people can think that way.
“In certain situations, it [issue of racism] goes out your mind.... then something like that happens and it makes you realise things like this are happening and people still think like that.
“It is an eye opener and it hits home that these things are happening.
“This is why people need to speak up and create awareness that education is needed to move forward.”
As part of his involvement in You Cannot Be What You Cannot See, Holgate advises people to “have the courage to be yourself and pursue your dreams with all your heart”.
Today, he adds: "I was brought up [to believe] I am no different from anybody else… just because my skin tone is different doesn’t mean I am not the same on the inside as somebody else.
“To judge somebody on just their outer layer is a bit strange.
“Everyone is the same on the inside.
“I feel we are a time where if you go and do it [excel in your chosen sphere]... it provides a way for other people to follow, and that is very important.”