Monthly Podcast highlight Grounded with George Morse “Black Voices Behind The Blue Wall”
When we see each other on the pavement we often see each other as runners, usually overlooking other ventures and career journeys we are on outside of running. This month we focus on Black Men Run Philadelphia chapter co-captain Geroge Morse, a fifth-generation law enforcement officer with the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office. Morse has 15 years of service working in the City of Philadelphia. His family has also been a part of public service in Philadelphia for over 50 years. The social injustices we’ve seen in 2020 and over the past have taken a toll not only in our communities but also on Black and brown officers in law enforcement which has led to George, aka Geo McFlyy as many of you know him, to create his new podcast Black Voices Behind The Blue Wall.
MSM: Welcome to Mid Strike. For our readers, tell us a bit about your run journey and what led you into your running and fitness journey.
George: Thanks for featuring me in this magazine issue as I appreciate it this brother Jesse. Well, I was already active but more so in the gym with lifting and running on the treadmill and track. But when I saw the Black Men Run brotherhood running through the City of Brotherly Love and showing up squad deep at races, I got motivated to join them for their weekly group runs.
MSM: When you started running what was your moment? The run or race where you said to yourself okay this is it, this is cool… I can do running. Was fitness something that has always been in your DNA from childhood or family?
George: Athletics & sports was a passion of mine since I was a youth. Growing up in Southwest Philadelphia, I was always outside and active. I played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track on & off. But I truly shined on the football field in high school. So yes fitness was also something passed down in my DNA. My grandfather, father, and I all were athletes in our youth. We all excelled in sports, all three generations were multi-sport athletes. My father and I actually played football for the same high school at John Bartram. I was the better football player though in my time as I was the one who was supposed to go pro. In my senior year, I was a team captain and a starting running back. But I suffered a sprained MCL after one of my biggest rushing games for 120 yards and a 26-yard touchdown.
MSM: As a runner of color most of our early struggles on the pavement are simply due to us not seeing runners that look like us. Running with folks that can relate to us, our struggles, our community as a fellow Black Men Run member. When I saw the camaraderie of the brotherhood it was a no-brainer on becoming part of the BMR movement. When did you come across the Philly chapter of BMR?
George: I began my distance running journey back in the spring of 2015. I was invited out to join the Black Men Run Philly chapter for a group run. That first group run was something special to me and I was on a runner’s high ever since. I haven’t been around that type of camaraderie, fellowship, and encouragement since I played high school varsity football. At that moment that’s when I knew my distance running journey was something that I would continue to pursue.
MSM: When I ran the Philly marathon back in 2018 I noticed you brothers from afar as you guys were taking photos on the steps. I’m going to be honest, I saw the steps I decided not to walk up the steps after the run lol. You all are very cool sincere brothers and a very close-knit chapter. A good close-knit chapter almost always is a representation of the Captain. Tell us a bit about the other members in the Philly chapter of BMR.
George: So yes the BMR Philly chapter has always been a close-knit group of brothers. We always like to meet pre-race to connect and get our photos in front of the Art Museum steps, which is a landmark in the city of Philadelphia, especially to the tourists. I’m grateful to serve as the Vice-Captain with BMR Philly, alongside our captain, a good brother by the name of Lawrence Harrington, who actually chose me to be his Co-Captain when he was chosen to lead the Philly chapter. We have a lot of brothers who play a major role in keeping our chapter strong. Shouts out to the Philly home team by the way. Leroy Miles, Jeremy Jordan, Eric Finger, Sherm Cloud, Ty Smith, Ed Ruffin, William Patterson, Jerome Lowery, Devon Mays, and the rest of the active brothers.
MSM: For folks, including myself, how can we link up for a run with the BMR Philly chapter?
George: We host two weekly group runs right now. We have our Wednesday night group run at 6:00 pm at Lloyd Hall Rec center behind the Philadelphia Art Museum. We also have a Saturday morning group run. Where we meet at Mander playground at 7:30 am in North Philadelphia. Both group runs are 5-mile routes throughout the city. All running levels from beginners to experienced are welcomed to join us.
MSM: The Philly chapter has been a consistent voice when it comes to running to protest as you’ve all been very vocal when it comes to social injustices, racism or simply celebrating us and our culture. With 2020 being such a mentally draining year for us the fight must continue especially as Black men. For myself, there were times where 2020 was simply mentally exhausting but what we must do is talk to each other about it. How do you keep these conversations going within your chapter?
George: Yes, I agree brother, 2020 was a mentally exhausting year for me also. So here in Philly, we have a lot of murals of our ancestors throughout the city. We like to capture those murals in our photo ops on our group runs to pay homage. Also, we make sure we do some type of annual run to celebrate our Black Holidays. Not only the ones that are recognized as national holidays either. We start the year off with a Kwanzaa celebration run, we run on MLK Jr. Day of Service, We also run on Malcolm X’s birthday to celebrate his life & legacy. Last year was our first Juneteenth annual group run and we had a great turnout. It was at the height of all the protests in response to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. We dubbed it the Black Independence Day 10K. We also schedule Zoom meetings during the pandemic to speak on social justice issues that needed to be addressed. It gave brothers an outlet to speak on what we are currently dealing with in this country as Black men and as Black people collectively.
MSM: This essentially leads into our next question. You are also a Deputy Sheriff Sergeant in the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office and have been in law enforcement for over 15 years. Essentially you are seeing the mental wear down from both ends of the spectrum. How have you managed to stay focused with all the issues that affect our communities?
George: Yes I’ve been a Law Enforcement Officer for over a decade now. But in the last few years I’ve seen the climate change, and community relations go on a downward spiral. So with everything that has been affecting the Black community, my therapeutic get away has been what I do outside of my work. Which draws me back to my distance running journey, which I can do alone to clear my head and find peace of mind. But BMR has been a safe space for me as a Black man as well. Not just for my physical health but for my mental health also. The conversations and fellowship that we have amongst one other is something rare.
MSM: Let’s talk about your podcast which to me is very cool and to an extent is a breath of fresh air. You’ve given officers and first responders an avenue to discuss their concerns and issues they battle with each day. How did you come up with the podcast and how did you create this idea and avenue for others?
George: Yes, I recently launched my own podcast called “Black Voices Behind The Blue Wall”. It was created to be a safe space for Black law enforcement professionals and first responders. I wanted to highlight them for their service, speak on what drove them into their profession, and basically amplify Black voices that work on the front lines.
MSM: You’re a fifth-generation Black law enforcement officer so you’ve been around law enforcement your entire life. Of the things that you’ve experienced growing up and also seeing how other family members in law enforcement worked, did you ever say to yourself “I’d like to do things differently” in order to create change within law enforcement?
George: The background in law enforcement comes from my father’s side, The Morse family. I actually spent most of my life on my mother’s side with the Gillis family. But I always heard about my father, grandfather, and great grandfather working in the profession. But growing up that wasn’t something I planned on doing with my life. My passions were sports, music, fashion, and entertainment. I actually survived a near-fatal shooting a year before becoming a Deputy Sheriff. After I recovered from that shooting incident, I came across an opportunity to become a Deputy Sheriff Officer. So I did feel like when I came into law enforcement, that It was a calling on my life and I can make a difference. I just count my blessings daily, as a gun violence survivor. Because I know that everyone doesn’t make a full recovery, run marathons, and a chance to tell their story. But unfortunately, it’s still happening at an alarming rate in the Black communities and especially in Philadelphia.
MSM: Black Voices Behind the Blue Wall is a safe place for officers and first responders. Do you feel at times these past few years that it’s been a little hard to speak up on the state of this country with all the racism issues we go through each day?
George: Yes I feel that we can’t speak on these issues when we’re in the workplace without being frowned upon. Because everyone we may work with may not be affected in the same manner as the Black officers. So I know how tough it can be for officers of color personally because we still have to show up protect and serve. At the same time, you have to compress your emotions that you may be dealing with after seeing someone from your community and culture being murdered by someone in the same profession as you.
MSM: Mental health and awareness is something we don’t address consistently enough in our communities. Do you feel these are the same issues we struggle with in law enforcement as well?
George: I feel that mental health is finally being brought to the forefront. When in the past it was almost like a taboo for a Black man to admit that he may be depressed or dealing with mental health issues. But in this day and time for a Black man or woman in law enforcement, this conversation has to be had because we come from the same communities that are being negatively affected and impacted, by coming into contact with law enforcement across the country and something has to change for the better.
MSM: Where can our readers listen to the podcast and how can we also keep up with George aka Geo McFLyyy?
George: You can download & stream my podcast “Black Voices Behind The Blue Wall” on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Breaker, & Radio Public. You can follow me at @mid_run_motivation at your own pace.
MSM: From team Mid Strike to you, we thank you for your service to the community through BMR and law enforcement. We wish you nothing but safety and blessings. Any last words you’d like to share with our readers?
George: Stay Blessed, Stay Fit, and Stay Focused.