More Than an Athlete

The impact of sport is heavily felt throughout our society. We look at sports as a way to get away from the pressures and stressors of the everyday grind. There is nothing better than sitting with a group of friends, whether in front of the television or live at a venue, and watching two teams (or individuals) compete for dominance – even if it is short-lived.
But to a lot of people, participation in sports is a ticket out of a negative situation. For these people, sports can bring them to places that they have never seen. It can help them meet people that they have never dreamed of. It can provide for a different status than what they are used to.

To a lot of people, sport is life, which means that to those same people, success in a particular sport means a better life.

I was raised in a neighborhood that knew this first-hand. We watched many people from our hood become very successful athletes. What does that mean? It means that they got a scholarship to play at an institution (whether the scholarship was for a significant sum or a little sum is irrelevant). We would watch these student-athletes come back from their institutions (some of which we had never heard of) for the summer and play or practice their summer – lightyears better than when they left, and marvel at their new-found physique, as well as their new-found fame. As youths, that is all we needed to know – sports were where you found your new life.

These were the people we looked up to. These were the people we wanted to emulate. Did these young college athletes know the influence they had over us? For the most part, no. But, nevertheless, they had us.

The point of this story is to provide context to what I am about say.

Sports figures still have that effect on people today. Our society still looks at those sports figures as leaders.

When Lebron James, a kid from Akron, Ohio, says something, people listen. He provides an avenue for people who do not have his platform; people who do not have his talent; people who do not have his influence. He understands that what he says matters to millions of people who look like him. It is disingenuous to tell a person who used his talents to get where he is at to “shut up and dribble.” It is asinine to tell a person who has his work ethic to tell him that he is “lucky to be where he is.” It is reckless to tell someone who demands his fair share of an industry that makes billions off of his name that he is “only playing a child’s game.”

Millions of people listen and watch what he says or does in sports, in business, in education, in politics, and strive to be just like him. Just as I listend and watched what local athletes said and did and strived to be just like them. I understand that you may not agree with the platforms that he stands for, but you should recognize his efforts for the greater good. What he is doing is not a new-found formula – especially in the black community.

Jim Brown does it.
Muhammad Ali did it.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar does it.
Venus and Serena Williams do it.
Arthur Ashe did it.
Jessie Owens did it.
Jackie Robinson did it.

The list could go on.

Sports provide a media for sports stars to speak for those who have no voice.

It is the same as it ever was. As long as you have a population feeling oppressed, you will find people that will look to its exceptional people to be their voice.

Basketball is a Spectator Sport — For Me

I debated writing this, but, in the end, I think it is more important to share. Don’t judge me!

I have come to a pivotal point in my life. I did not know that I would get to this moment, and it came on suddenly. In fact, it came on so sudden that it took me by surprise. What happened, you ask?

My oldest daughter told me that my help was no longer needed during her basketball games.

Back when I was a genius…

I was not surprised that I was told that my help was no longer needed; it was the manner in which it was done.

I will provide some context:

I have been my daughter’s coach since she was able to run. I have been her basketball coach since she could pick up a ball. Playing basketball and learning new skills has been a part of our relationship – a bonding point between us. Like other kids who have played on a team coached by a parent, we had our ups and downs. But, with my wife’s help, we had always hugged it out with some understanding. Now, she plays on the high school team, which puts me on the sidelines – and I am okay with that.
During her second game, she was defending a girl, who I believe was a weak ball-handler.

“Get up on her!” I yell.

And that is when she looked at me, while playing defense, and held her hand in a way that represented open lips, and she pressed her fingertips together – closing the “lips”.

Yup, that is correct; she motioned for me to shut up — all without getting out of defensive position.

Son. Of. A. Bitch! She shushed me.

I was so shocked by this! I went through a gamut of emotions:

What the…?!

How dare…?!

Ungrateful ass!

Just then, I turned and looked at my wife who was sitting next to me with a family friend – laughing. Not just any laugh; it was a full-out belly laugh. And then it hit me – I am no longer my daughter’s coach. It was time for my transformation from father/coach to father/mentor/fan.

I had once read the book, Changing the Game, which has a lot of useful information concerning the way parents can help and hurt their kids in youth sports. One thing I took away from the book is this question:

Do my actions reflect the values I want my child to embody.

Both on and off the court, I want my child to have the following:

  1. A love for the sport,
  2. A growth mindset,
  3. Confidence,
  4. The ability to make mistakes,
  5. The ability to learn from mistakes,
  6. The ability to correct mistakes,
  7. Independence.

By her gesture, she was claiming her independence. She was ultimately doing everything I asked of her since she was in third grade — I cannot be mad at that. It is effortless to yell out and coach from the sideline. But that is just it; I am no longer on the sideline – I am in the audience, which brings up another thing that this book has taught me—the importance of saying to her the words:

I Love Watching You Play.

She is such a fierce competitor.

As a youth athlete, I remember nothing that I disliked more than the post-game report — especially after a loss. I did not get it from my parents but from the parents of my peers. They all thought that they were being helpful, but mentally, it was not. My parents? I believe that they knew that there were more pressing issues in the world than how much I scored or how much playing time I received. They left the improvement up to me. If I was going to be good at anything, it would be intrinsically motivated (but don’t get that confused with not caring).

So, what did I gain from this experience?
I should count my blessings that I have a healthy daughter who loves to play basketball at a high level. Before each game, I should review my goals for her this year. Realistically, the goals I have for her have very little to do with a specific sport but life lessons that she can use for the future.

Let’s Go, Afro!

It’s 2021, It is Time to Start Controlling What You Can Control!

Today is Inauguration Day, which is a very joyous occasion for some people. But for others, there are feelings of fear and uncertainty running rampant in their minds. If you are worried about the future of this country, here are some immediate things you can do to help steer this country in a positive direction.

1. Read to a child every night.

2. Make sure that your local city council reflects the city’s demographic.

3. Make sure the local school board is representative of its’ students

4. Love your family.

5. Learn about and invest in generational wealth.

6. Work out.

7. Practice gratitude daily.

8. Be a mentor.

9. Build up your community. Know who your neighbors are.

10. Stop being a keyboard warrior.

Remember, this is a scary time for us all. We are all doing our best to deal with unprecedented historical events. Just remember, we are in this together.

The Decision

To be a black male is to live a life that is full of contradictions. Contradictions that cause us to make decisions that we may not understand. Decision that now our black boys are having to make.

It is a critical one that directly affects them future and the future of their children.

It is one that has been overlooked in our society for far too long, and it is time we discussed it.

It is a decision whether to assimilate or not.

Each path comes with favorable and less favorable outcomes. And, it is a decision that each black individual will need to make for himself.

The decision is whether to become an assimilationist or a non-conformist.

The definition of assimilation is to act accordingly with the intent of fitting in and or conforming. In this case, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

A non-conformist is a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices. Again, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

For a black male, assimilation can be considered a good thing. A black person who chooses to assimilate is more likely to be accepted and given privileges that maybe not part of their original environment — an environment that could deviate from society’s expectations of “success.” On the other hand, choosing to assimilate could come at a great price. The acceptance of one set of norms could mean the a denial of another. The ability to attain and keep street credit within ones own community (not just geographical location) is an important part of the black society. To be able to walk down the street and get “the nod” from peers means acceptability and the ability to walk through certain neighborhoods with confidence and respect.

For a black person, to be a non-conformist is to keep and maintain street credit, which holds the ability to walk around a neighborhood as a leader or a a well-respected member of that community (again looking at more than geographical location). People who do not understand this may ask, “Why would anyone forgo the opportunity to improve themselves for street credit?” Those people would be missing the point.

Improving oneself is only relative to society’s definitions of success. If a house, a car, and a picket fence is society’s definition of successful, then the non-conformist may net ever meet the expectations for success, which is why it is important that society does not create perimeters for what it is to be successful. Success can come in many forms and is only contingent on each individual who must decide for oneself when enough is enough.

In order for black youth to be able to make a concious decision, they must first be presented with the question through conversation. This conversation between older and younger generations of blacks males needs to be had and must continue because it is critical. The conversation has not gotten any easier — especially for those of us who live in homogenous communities.

Look no further than the current state of events. It is getting harder and harder to avoid the elephant in the room. It is harder to look past the fact that if it were a group of African Americans that stormed The Capitol, we would be reading a different story. But, who bears the cross of uncomfortable silence? Is it me – who fears that the conversation could go too far and disrupt my livelihood or my life’s work? Or is it my community — who has to live with the fact that there are some truths that they must come to terms with? Especially since the community knows and interacts with me, my wife, and my children daily.


Once again, I, a forty-year-old man, am forced to decide between assimilation and non-conformity. I am once again forced to make a decision that can derail what I have worked for. I am forced to make the same type of decision that I had to as a youth.


Is it fair? No.


Is it real? Yes.


So, here I am, stuck between two worlds — forced to navigate this world without a playbook, instructional manual, or a tour guide. Trying to be successful, while trying not to become a traitor –

An Uncle Tom.

An Oreo.

A Coon.

While also not trying to be angry —

ungrateful

ghetto

intimidating.

It is a terrible thing to be black male to be labeled as one of these things. But, it is a reality.

This is why representation matters. This is why we need black people in positions that matter. Black males deserve to have people in positions that matter!

We shouldn’t have to make this decision. But we do — and, as a whole community, it is our job to guide our black youth and not judge their decision. There are no wrong answers, only consequences.

Reading is Fundamental

Literature tells society’s story. A non fiction book not only provides the reader with context, but entertainment value as well. It shows the sentiment of a faction of society from a particular time period — a snapshot in time.

…which is why I cannot figure out why people show disgust for books based solely on their disdain for the author and not on the contents of the book.

Literally judging a book by its cover.

Since graduating with my Ph.D., I have found a ton of time to read for enjoyment (thank God). I have been consuming nonfiction at a stupid rate, and I like to share books that I am currently reading on social media.

And that is when the opinions on the books start.

Check that — critiques on the books.

Check that — critiques on the authors of the books from people who have never read said books.

Book by Candace Owens – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by Michelle Obama – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by George W. Bush – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by Barack Obama – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by Ibrahim X. Kendi – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by W.E.B. Dubois – yup, you guessed it – pissed and voice their opinion.

And the mad ones never bothered to read the book…

And they are big mad…

I am not surprised that people post their critiques (opinions like assholes, right); I am surprised that people post their opinions without knowing what is inside the book. I am surprised that people judge a book by its author and not the content. I am surprised that people are so comfortable with their sheer ignorance.

Or conscientious stupidity.

I read nonfiction from a wide variety of authors. I feel that it is important to read from a variety of perspectives and experiences. I get it, that is not something every person cares to do. But, if you find yourself if a book store looking at the cover of a book, and the author’s picture conjures a reaction of disgust, it might say more about you as a person than it does the author or the reader.

Just remember, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is Still Time for Good Trouble…

The issue with choosing leadership is that, when it goes our way (either side), we (the constituents) take a breath as if our job/our civic duty/our mission is complete, which, in the end, only leads to disappointment. Let me be clear, the easiest part of democracy is getting your leader in office.

No matter who we choose as a leader:

Rights will be challenged,

personal values will be questioned,

you will be taxed,

people need representation,

children need to be educated, and,

evil will come in some form.

No matter the leader, become educated and active in politics.

If your candidate won, congratulations! Now get to work.

If your candidate lost, sorry. Now get to work.

It is the same as it ever was.

One, Tired, Brotha.

To be educated, you must first admit that you are ignorant. If you cannot admit ignorance, you have accepted that you enjoy your conscientious stupidity.

I am tired.

So very, very tired.

Mentally exhausted.

No matter how much sleep I get, I awaken feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. And truthfully, I am not sure how much more I can take.

I am tired of the conscientious stupidity. I am not talking about sincerely ignorant people who genuinely do not know any better (although also dangerous). I am tired of the type of people who share information on social media that they know is not valid. Information that is from random sites like Myopinionisbiasedandunfounded.com

I am tired of the pseudo-ignorant. The people who ask questions that they know the answer to. The ones who “…do not want to start a debate, but…” on social media, then start a debate that ends in “Well, this is my page, so…”

I am tired of people who lack the skills to form a sound argument. Oh look, I am getting my ass handed to me, so let’s end this with, “If you don’t believe as I do, then you must be a _____.” Awesome debating skills. Your DDF team must have killed it in high school.

I am tired of long-standing relationships being severed over political platforms that should be decided privately — in a voting booth.

I am tired of the lack of literacy. I am tired of the people who form arguments without also researching material to the contrary. The one-sided “academic” has to be the most ignorant individual there is.

I am tired of trying to explain to my kids why people cannot follow the same rules that are taught in elementary school: be kind, listen to others, don’t call someone out of their name, keep your hands to yourself, play fair, say you’re sorry, etc. The very same stuff that is on the Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten list.

I am tired of The Corona Virus. I want my social gatherings back. I want my children to cough without me thinking, “Oh, shit!” I am sick of the debates. Especially from people who… well…see paragraph regarding Conscientious Stupidity

I am tired of, “Go to a different country!” Although travel broadens one’s horizons, these people know what they are saying, and they are assholes (Yeah, I called them out of their names).

So, if I am sick and tired of so much, what keeps me going. The kids. Not just mine, but all of them. We obviously are not going to leave this world better than when we found it. And still they are resillient; they understand what is happening around them; they are not as lazy as we make them out to be.

Thank God I am an educator.

When You May Need to Sit Your Grown Ass Down!

I’m learning that adolescent girls are full of drama.

I know…that sounds incredibly sexist. But seriously.

One day they are friends, the next, they can’t stand each other for whatever reason. Two days later, they are having sleepovers.

It has become a full-time job figuring out who is talking to who each week. That’s why I don’t even try. I got better shit to worry about.

It is easy to get involved in adolescent drama — I get it, we don’t want our kids to hurt. It is challenging to teach them self-worth and self-advocacy. Where is the line? Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect answer — it is different for everybody. But there is a line. If you find yourself confronting an adolescent about something that was said, you’ve definitely crossed it.

And you are crippling your kid.

Check yourself.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about the drama that comes from unhealthy relationships. I am talking about drama centering around:

Party invites,

Playing time,

Valentines,

Disagreements,

Breakups.

Conflict builds character. When it arises, if you are doing anything more than sitting your child down and talking to them about ways to work through the conflict, you are part of the problem.

Sit your grown ass down.

The Box

My Babies,

Our society likes things to be neat. One way of doing that is through classification — a place for everything and everything in its place. Organization and classification are wonderful tools to keep things separated; it is a terrible tool to use with people. People are not meant to be kept in their place, which is why I have a strong piece of advice:

Stay the Hell out of “the box.”

People are not meant to be tidy. Humans are not meant to be kept in their place. Humans are complex individuals that have wants and needs that could be foreign to the understanding of other fellow humans. Nevertheless, many will want to classify you in order to suit their understanding.

Fuck that.

When people first look at me, they see my exterior — a muscular, black person who frowns when he walks. So, those people will use that information to form their own series of opinions.

“He must be an alpha male.”

“He must listen to gangster rap.”

“He must have played sports.”

Ninety-eight percent of their notions could not be further from the truth. I am a walking contradiction to the status quo. I wear it like a badge of honor.

I am not a stereotypical alpha male, though I do have strong opinions.

I not only listen to rap music, I also love bluegrass and many other genres.

I played sports, and although I am built for football, my first love is soccer.

I could go on.

You will not be able to control the perceptions that people have of who you are. But, you can shock the hell out of them when they find out who you aren’t.

When I start the school year, I stand in front of the class and say, “I don’t know if you noticed, but I am black (the only one). Great, now that the elephant is out of the room, you need to understand that any preconceived notions or stereotypes that you may have are dead wrong — especially if my wife, who teaches in the next room, have made them.” And it is the truth. Throughout the year, they will find out:

  • I love art and I love to create.
  • I am a family man. My daughters have me wrapped around their fingers.
  • I don’t really like football.
  • I am an activist.
  • I am a politician.
  • I collect comic books.
  • I am a sneaker head.
  • I am a blogger.
  • They list can go on and on.

The point is: I am unclassifiable. No matter where people may want to place me, I am not part of any status quo. And therein lies the lesson – stay out of the box.

People will say, “But you a black, how can you vote that way?

The answer: Because you are an individual.

People will say, “But you are a girl (or boy), how can you say that?

The answer: Because you are an individual.

People will say. “But you are from here/there, why would you ever believe that?”

The answer: Because you are an individual.

You are a person who is entitled to your own thoughts and opinions and are not limited to a set box of ideas because of your exterior. A friend of mine always says, “To thine own self be true.” That statement has never been more important than right now. If you have a belief, then stick by it (please, for the love of God, make sure that it is backed by research and empirical evidence).

The beauty of being Young, Gifted and Black is that we have a multitude of talents and interests. No one gets to tell us how we are supposed to live our lives.

By all means, stay the hell out of the box.

Power to the Storytellers

We often look to literature to provide an accurate account of historical events. Just recently, we have begun to look at authors of differing backgrounds and perspectives to provide readers with a wholistic view of historical events (as opposed to the perspective of the winner – mostly male; mostly Caucasian).

We are currently living in a time of historical significance. The literature coming from this era will be analyzed and scrutinized be generations to come. It is time to consider the relics we are leaving behind? When my grandchildren read about 2020, what will the narrative be? Who are the authors they will study? What criticisms will they have of us?

That will be dependent on it’s writers…

And that is why it is so important for everyone to write.

Throughout time, history was dictated by those who were nobility, who could read or write, or who were able to find an entity who could publish their work. With the advancement of technology, those are no longer excuses for the inability to publish. Now, more than ever, it is essential that everyone write. Journals, blogs, memoirs, etc. are going to tell our story.

Not a good writer?

Practice.

Can’t spell?

Use spell check.

Don’t have the time?

I’m just going to call bs on that one.

People will judge me.

Yes. But mostly because those who have never done it will always tell you how to do it.

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