Sunday, Feb. 13, SoFi Stadium will be packed and full of energy with Super Bowl LVI underway. For many, attending the Super Bowl is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and three of Los Angeles' cherished social justice leaders will have that opportunity come to fruition.
Executive Director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) Sam Lewis, CEO of Heart of Los Angeles Tony Brown, and Executive Director of City Year Los Angeles Dr. Sandra Cano were invited to participate in the halftime performance featuring Watts native and performing artist, Stix, and Keedron Bryant during the Rams Inspire Change game against the San Francisco 49ers.
"It was great to be on the field sharing the Inspire Change message. The team is doing their part and the NFL is doing their part to make our country better," said Lewis.
The Los Angeles Rams Inspire Change efforts aim to create solutions that address community barriers and highlight stories and moments in Rams' history that have inspired change on and off the field. Launched in 2019, Inspire Change is a league-wide platform that focuses on reducing barriers to opportunity and creating progress. During the performance, the three social justice leaders held Inspire Change banners that featured empowering messages about justice, equity and hope.
"People were just focused on the messaging. It makes you feel really good to know that the Rams have created an environment that makes social justice an important issue that they stand for and that we all need to be a part of and join," said Brown.
As the halftime show wrapped up, the three justice leaders received the surprise of a lifetime when they were each gifted two tickets to Super Bowl LVI for the critical work they do in our communities.
"I've never experienced anything like it," said Brown. "I just felt grateful. I felt privileged. I felt a part of a family. I felt honored. It sends the message that anything is possible, and I think that's really great. All of us have been fighting these fights for so long and sometimes there can enter that feeling of hopelessness when you see certain things happening… and you're looking for moments of hope and change."
Each of the community heroes was shocked by the surprise and filled with gratitude.
"Thank you is just not enough," Lewis expressed. "It says our team really cares about what we are doing in our communities because they are a part of our community. I think that's the best way I can say it. The Rams are a part of our community, and they genuinely care about what's going on in our community and how they can help."
The Rams Inspire Change efforts focus on education, food and housing insecurity, criminal justice reform and community-police relations. The work the Rams have done with ARC, Heart of Los Angeles and City Year LA highlights the team's commitment to positively impacting the Los Angeles community by creating access and combatting systemic barriers.
"The work that I do comes from my life experiences. A big part of my life, I lived in south LA, just blocks away from Inglewood," said Cano. "A lot of the work that I do is essentially just to give back for everything that I've received. My mom was an immigrant, regardless of that, she did what she could to get me into private schools and I was able to go straight into UCLA. There were all of these gifts and opportunities that I had growing up where I felt that I needed to dedicate my life to helping those that didn't have my opportunities. The work that I'm doing at City Year is really to help impact the communities where I came from that don't have the opportunities that I have. So, for me, that within itself is a gift because I'm being able to create an impact. For an organization such as the Rams to recognize and give me a gift… is like beyond icing. To me, it's like a really incredible gift for something that I love to do already. To be honored like that was such a humbling experience for sure."
Along with Sandra Cano, Tony Brown and Sam Lewis have used their personal experiences to drive their impactful work.
"I love to be recognized for doing the work because I love the work that I do, being able to help people achieve their goals and to realize that they matter," said Lewis. "Yesterday, I celebrated my 10-year anniversary of being free. I spent 24 years in prison and yesterday was the day. On Jan. 12, 2012, I walked out of the correctional training facility as a free person and the only thing I wanted to do was to help our communities and help young people make our system better and bring people home better. To be able to have those tickets is like…for 10 years I have been doing this and it just lets me know that I've been on the right track from day one when I stepped out of those institutions."
Giving back is in the DNA of these three leaders.
"I'm going to bring with me one of our very first Heart of Los Angeles Alumni Board Fellows," said Brown when asked about what he will do with the tickets. "It seems like the right thing to do because of what this whole movement is. It takes us all. It takes all of us to stand up for social justice."
In Sept. 2020, the Rams collaborated with Stix to create a music video for "It Takes All of Us" promoting social justice. Throughout the year and as part of Inspire Change, the Rams will continue to recognize individuals doing critical work to create positive change in our communities.
"I'm grateful for people like Molly and the Rams ownership, their team really wants to make our communities better," said Lewis. "Watching football has a whole different meaning now. It's a sport and I love it but the Rams have made it more than that. It's a community thing."
To learn more about the Rams Inspire Change efforts, please visit www.therams.com/community/inspire-change.