HOULTON – Jon Solomon’s everyday life is different from many of those around him.
“You know you sort of walk a certain way you have to have a fine line of how you do things because I can’t say the same things to a police officer that my buddy can say to a police officer,” Solomon said.
A Houlton High School teacher and football, girls basketball and baseball coach, Solomon has had good experiences with police in Houlton, but understands once out of his small town things change. A lesson he learned when he was a teenager.
“If I was in Cambridge (MA) and we went to stores in Cambridge you know we call them ‘floor walkers’ that there were people in the stores to make sure I didn’t steal anything and you know I’m a teenager at that point in time,”
Solomon was born and raised in Boston’s inner cities, but through METCO, a program that gives kids in inner cities an opportunity to attend public schools in other towns, went to school in Arlington, an affluent town. Solomon later went on to play football at UMaine, started a family, and has now made his way to Houlton where he has coached his two kids, Tessa and Caleb, through instances of racism.
“A kid would get to me or a coach has gotten to me and wouldn’t shake my hand but would shake everyone’s hand before and after me you know so it’s very subtle there have times when I’ve been coaching and we’ve had black players on the teams that I’ve coached that have dealt with racial incidents right on the field,” Solomon said.
His experiences are an microcosm of what millions are protesting around the country. Solomon says it goes beyond the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others and it’s made better or worse through rhetoric.
“When Governor LePage was our governor he made a quote and it was out there about you know black men come to Maine to impregnate white women and sell drugs that’s how I get looked at when I’m in an area where I’m not supposed to be,” Solomon said.
So how do we ease the tension and make progress? Solomon says through action, which is exactly what Houlton football players did last year when Solomon took the team to his parents house in Boston to participate in Boston area football camps.
“Being able to interact and being able to see people that didn’t look like you but had a similar interest like you. Next year’s seniors are like coach are we going to go to your parent’s house again I really want to go to your parent’s house again,” Solomon said with a smile.