Interview: St. Augustine’s Barret Rey shares experience with racism, teaching young men properly

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Barret Rey first entered our radar as a pitcher at St. Augustine High School, graduating in 1992.

He went on to continue his playing career at Southern University.

In four years at Southern, Rey posted an impressive 21-6 record with 13 complete games and three shutouts, leading the Jaguars to a pair of NCAA appearances.

Upon graduating, Rey became an assistant coach at his alma mater, serving for eight seasons (1998-06).

Rey then went to rival Grambling for his first head coaching position in 2007, serving for three years and leading the previously downtrodden Tiger program to a pair of SWAC tournaments before leaving for SWAC rival Alcorn State in 2010. In 2011, Rey led the Braves to the NCAA Tournament and was named SWAC Coach of the Year.

In 2016, Rey was the head baseball coach at Morgan City.

In 2017, Rey came home to New Orleans as athletic director at St. Augustine and in 2020, Rey took over as head baseball coach of the Purple Knights, who saw their season shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Growing up in New Orleans, Rey got his first taste of discrimination.

“I’ve seen my share of it,” Rey said. “St. Augustine was put there for times like this. As a community right now, we’re tired and it hurts and we’re scared for our kids. When I did go through the times I did, I was prepared for what St. Augustine did for me and also what my parents and the foundation they laid. Your foundation starts with your parents and how you were raised and that develops into a young man as a human being.”

Rey spoke of not being on a level playing field with others as an adolescent.

“Once I set foot in the hallways at a student at St. Augustine it was taught that ‘hey, you have to be better than the next man speaking of the next man being your white peers,” Rey said. “It wasn’t any secret there. When you look at times like this in 2020, it hurts.”

Rey was not immune to dealing with issues with law enforcement growing up.

“I had a little run in back in the 1990’s with police in front of my mom’s door,” Rey said. “I don’t really speak much about it because I really don’t remember it, I was so young. What it made me do was realize that George Floyd, that could have been me. That could have been anybody in our school from the young men to when they get older to the principals to whoever works at that school.

“We have a different dynamic than most and it hurts. It’s frightening at times to know that we have to do what’s best for these kids to raise them up so it doesn’t happen to them and so they can understand exactly what is going on and be able to deal with it. You just try to have tough skin and stand for what’s right and just keep moving. That’s my message to the young guys.”

Has there been substantive, meaningful progress in race relations and relations between police and the black community?

“With all honesty, you do see change but it is very little change,” Rey said. “You look back at times like this where you fall back into reality. We have to come to a point where we all can just be able to get along and all understand each other. I might not like everything you do but if I respect you as a man and understand it I think that’s better than channeling your anger in the wrong direction. You do see improvement but there is a lot more improvement that has to happen.”

The time for tolerating injustice is over.

“Anger is a natural reaction,” Rey said. “I want these young guys to be angry but channel that anger in the right way and to not accept some of the things we have to accept. We accepted those things back in the ‘70’s. In 1987, I remember going to a football game with my dad and we accepted those things in order for thigs to get better. It hurts. The only way we’re going to get past it is that we all come together. I do see that down the line but it’s going to take hard times, tough conversations. Sports might be the way to bring it all back together.”

Rey sees one key aspect to healing taking place.

“Listening is very, very key,” Rey said. “Also, being a good human being and knowing that anytime that you see something that you would not like done to yourself and to your community, don’t do it and don’t justify it being done. That’s the simple way that I live by and that’s the simple way that we’ve been taught to live at St. Augustine. Never accept mediocrity.
Always be better and always go beyond to be better, as a young black man to be better. Listening is key. Understand what that other culture, race or human being is feeling, I think life would be much better.”

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