Voices of Unity: Firelands High School finds message of equality

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OBERLIN, Ohio (WJW) – Firelands High School star athlete Caden Bomback is carrying a torch, fueled by his frustration with the world around him.

“I feel like if I could just do something, just like put my two cents in, something could come out of it.”

The 18-year-old said the enormity of the killing of George Floyd and continued reports of brutality against African Americans hit him hard.

“It’s kind of like a recurring theme, it just kept happening over and over again in this country, but I saw it, I just felt sick and I thought, ‘How could this happen?’”

He was ready to take a stand against injustice but like many people, he wasn’t sure how.

“At first I wanted to take a knee like Colin Kaepernick.” 

Bomback also considered staying in the locker room for the national anthem.

Athletic Director Ty Stillman said the school staff would have supported him but feared his message wouldn’t be heard. Bomback worried it would be misinterpreted as disrespect.

“Whereas we may not have the platform of being a diverse community, we want to make sure that people in surrounding communities understand what Firelands and our community is about,” said Stillman.

After some deliberation, they decided on a shirt with a clear message.

“It’s Falcons For Equality, there’s six hearts and they’re all different skin tones or colors,” Bomback explained.

“It makes it so simple but so powerful,” said Stillman.

Caden’s message spread like wildfire on the court with the with the girl’s basketballs team deciding they would wear the shirts during their pregame warm-ups.

“As soon as we got the shirts, we wore them to every game and we wore them like pre-game and on the bus and leaving the schools,” said Megan Sutton.

She and her twin sister Madison, also stars on the court, say amplifying the cause was important to them.

“I wanted Caden’s voice to be heard and make sure that like we were behind him and he knew he had support from close friends,” said Madison.

That support spread beyond the student body Stillman says.

“There were times where my inbox was flooded with emails from all over the place. We’re sending t-shirts to Utah and Texas, it blew up, really blew up.”

Bomback says his generation, so tuned in to social media and other global forms of communication, has a duty to make a change.

“It’s not a trend. It’s something I feel strongly about, as well as they do. It’s just going to keep going on until people get equality.”

Bomback sells his t-shirts for $15 and leftover proceeds go to the Boys and Girls Club of Lorain County.

He plans to study criminal justice at Baldwin Wallace University and would like to be a police officer or an FBI agent while continuing to fight for justice and equality.

T-shirt orders can be made by emailing TStillman@firelandsschools.org.

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