Editor's note: This story is part of KSL.com's "Black Voices" series where we share black Utahns' stories about what life is like for them in the Beehive State.
SALT LAKE CITY — In May 2019, Tim Drisdom left a Utah High School Athletics Association hearing partially centered around derogatory and racist remarks aimed at him; his mind was buzzing.
The Intermountain Christian High basketball coach turned to music and began crafting a song.
“What have we come to?” Drisdom, the former University of Utah standout, wrote. “Where is the love? We need direction from God above. Just want to quit, throw in the towel. What is the use in going the extra mile?”
A year later, those lines form the introduction of the song “Hold On”, written by Drisdom and his younger brother, Terrence, who performs under the name ERNE. It's a song about finding hope through uncertainty.
The two are better known for their play on a basketball court, but that's not where their talents end. Not by a long shot.
The song represents different times of the brothers’ lives. The hopeful chorus was written by Tim, who is also the leader of the Salt Lake City Mass Choir, over a decade after he landed a long-awaited contract to play professional basketball overseas.
The verses were written by Terrence, who was back in Salt Lake City with his family after his professional basketball season was suspended due to COVID-19, under the backdrop of a world filled with a pandemic and civil unrest.
“Hope is always the same, regardless of the situation,” Terrence said. “And so that's kind of how I wrote it. The verses that I came up with came from thinking about things going on in the world but also things that I was going through personally, that I needed reassurance and to build hope off of.”
Since coming to Salt Lake to play for the Runnin’ Utes in 2002, Tim Drisdom has made Utah his home. His family followed.
His older brother, CJ, moved to Utah in 2005. Four years later, another younger brother, Chris, joined them. The Drisdom parents weren’t far behind, uniting with the family in the Beehive State around 2010. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona in 2014, Terrence joined the family in between pro basketball stops. (He’s hoping to pursue music and basketball as long as he can — he has released two other songs).
The pandemic allowed for CJ, Chris and Chris' wife, Anise Perry-Drisdom, to record "Hold On" together.
“We've never really done this before as a whole,” Terrence said. “It was really special, and something that will definitely last for each of us forever, especially just the impact that it's been making so far.”
While it’s a song pieced together from different times, it’s one that sounds like it was created for right now.
“I don't think the time could be better,” Tim said.
Tim has faced racism head-on. While playing at Utah, he heard racial slurs coming from opposing student sections, and that ugliness reared its head again last season as he was coaching his high school team.
In January of 2019, during a game at Tabiona, Intermountain Christian High students reported hearing racial slurs aimed at their coach. That eventually led to a complicated seven-hour long hearing filled with lots of "he said, she said" testimony with both sides mostly disagreeing on events.
Tabiona officials argued that the school should not be punished for the words of a fan, while claiming that Tim Drisdom threatened a player; Drisdom denied the allegation.
In the end, Tabiona was fined $6,000; ICS was fined $1,000. Drisdom was suspended for the first two games the next season, and both schools were placed on probation.
It was a difficult time for Drisdom, especially because he knew the racist taunts weren’t an isolated incident.
“In the high school realm, I have other colleagues that have experienced it,” the coach said. “And this is not the first time that we had been to the Utah High School Athletic Association about it. But this was the first time that it was so direct.”
The Drisdoms’ new song, at its core, is about the hope that change can happen. And with more conversations about social injustice occurring and more relationships being formed throughout the nation, that hope has only grown stronger.
“There are things that only through relationships you'll be able to be empathetic about,” Tim said. “Really, really get to know people who don't look like you, get to know people of color. Go online, look up history — I think that's important because you don't always understand what everybody is all riled up about because I don't think it's really taught in the schools.”
Added Terrence: “Don't be insensitive to what you haven't experienced. Empathy is more about that and more about just community. We’re all part of the same race; we're all human.”