Miah Davis doesn’t live too far from the scene of the crime committed 22 years ago, at the intersection of Pine Road and Sylvan Way in Bremerton.
There was no actual crime committed, at least not by Davis, at the time a 17-year-old basketball star at Bremerton High School. The crime occurred when a white woman fingered Davis, who is Black, as the gunman in a drive-by shooting.
At the time, Davis, his older brother, Victor, and a friend, Angelo Lundy, were returning home in the family’s minivan after renting a video game at a local store. When police arrived at Davis’ home for questioning, the three youths insisted the woman’s story was false.
It was one person’s story against three. There was no gun, no shell casings found, no other eyewitnesses corroborating her account of a shooting.
Police believed the accusation and put Davis in Kitsap County juvenile detention on Jan. 3, 1992. He spent two days locked up before being released.
Later in court, the woman pleaded guilty to fabricating the story. Her sentence included one day in jail, 80 hours of community service and a $250 fine for filing a false report.
Davis said he thinks race played a role in his arrest.
“In my eyes, 100 percent,” he said. “She made the whole thing up.”
Imagine the same scenario in a different town — police responding to a report of a Black male in a car firing a weapon — and envision all the different possible outcomes.
“It could have been worse,” Davis said.
Now, as the 39-year-old boys basketball coach at Bremerton High School, Davis is trying to use his platform as a coach of color for education, both on the hardwood and for discussing some of life’s most difficult topics: diversity, racism, oppression.
“There’s nothing wrong with having those uncomfortable conversations. The ugly truth is the best truth,” Davis said. “I want to help the community realize. Right now there is momentum and a platform that can be used.”
Being raised in Bremerton by his father Victor and mother Mildred, Davis said he wasn’t taught to see himself as different — even if others tried.
“I played soccer tournaments where I was the only Black kid with 80 teams at a tournament, getting name called, players taking me out,” Davis said.
Davis’ basketball talents propelled him from childhood into manhood. He led Bremerton to a fifth-place finish at state in 1999, guided the Pacific Tigers to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 in 2004 and played seven years professionally in Europe before returning to his hometown.
With a degree in communications from Pacific and a degree in business from Michigan State, Davis is proud of what he’s accomplished as a man — no racial identifier required. Those identifiers are something Davis pays attention to when engaging in conversations with others.
“Why do you have to use that?” Davis said. “I hate using the words African-American. When I go on an interview, I put ‘American’ because I am American.”
Like many Americans, Davis paid full attention to the nationwide protests about racial injustice that emerged following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. He viewed on television the nightly clashes between protesters and police in Seattle. He understands and supports many of the questions being raised by the Black Lives Matter movement across the country.
“We are not going to bend, break or fold,” Davis said. “That’s white or black. I have my brother’s back.”
During this volatile time in our country, it can be challenging for Davis to quiet the storm that sometimes rages inside him. He reminds himself of something his mother once told him, and it provides comfort: “People believe in you.”
After his wrongful arrest at age 17, Davis said he “could have been angry at the world” and allowed the rest of his life to change course. Maybe he doesn’t go on to play professional basketball and meet his wife, Sylvia, while playing in Poland. Maybe he doesn’t have a son, Jalen, now 12 years old.
Maybe he doesn’t understand his purpose in life.
“I’m here for a reason, to spread love and peace and help people along the way,” Davis said. “If we don’t teach kids now what America has been, then they won’t learn and grow and carry the torch.”
Davis is willing to do his part to lead the way, hoping what lies ahead is better than what’s been left behind.
“History can never change. Let’s teach our youth and our adults, ‘Hey, we’re about something different.'”
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews with coaches in Kitsap County about the current discussion of racial equity, our country’s past and how to talk about change.
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