A PAL Story

A PAL Story

“ I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout no black college.”

By Edd J. Hayes

Back in the ‘80s, I was a “gym rat” and spent a lot of time with my friends at the Police Athletic League gym on Webster Avenue in the Bronx, one of the many havens for inner city youths like so many others in cities and towns around the country.
Centers like these were the one of the first places that a youngster could go to began working on a game and a dream. It was the first stage of development for many of them who had visions of escaping the reality surrounding them. And, it was the first taste of organized sports and learning some of the life skills they that would help them overcome the proverbial “streets”.
The Webster Avenue Police Athletic League Center was ran by an ex- All-CIAA legendary power forward, Oscar Smith (Elizabeth City State). The first rule they came to respect was- once you crossed the threshold of the wide doors- you took off your cap! No exception, no excuses.
That was one of the little things that resonated in their maturation. Most of the volunteers were young black men, who had come up through the system, went off to college and returned to “give something back.” And, for both parties, it was a love affair that sometimes lasted a lifetime.
On a typical hot summer day, I was hanging at the PAL and I glimpsed a young man seated behind me and eventually engaged him in small talk. He seemed a little out of sorts and after a while, he revealed he had returned home after a failed stint in college. I recalled he was a former high school All-American who had been highly recruited and accepted a basketball scholarship to play a Big Ten program in the Midwest. 
He confessed that it was a cultural shock to him…an inner city kid who found it hard to adjust to life in the middle of the Corn Belt. He felt he had few options and decided to come back home to “regroup.” 

“Centers like these were one of the first places that a youngster could go to began working on their game and a dream”

Here was a depressed young man, which happened to a lot of youngsters who didn’t have strong mentoring support and a moral compass.
I felt empathy and tried in a feeble way to offer some encouragement. I must have burbled something like, “Have you considered playing for a Black college?”
He looked at me with a querying look and mumbled, “ I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout no black college.”
I had no answer then and that moment still haunts me. 
Yet, I knew about the Black college experience because I recall how it felt to walk on a campus where there were no barriers to overcome and you felt nurtured and supported by teachers, fellow students and teammates. 
There was an air of belonging I experienced nowhere else (and I attended a couple of predominately white institutions).
I recall that moment quite often when I’m face to face with a teenager who is full of confidence and swagger and faith in his ability to make all the right moves – on and off the fields, yet fails to fulfill his potential.
If I could see that young man now, I would look him in the eye and say, “You can’t ball all (of) your life. You need to learn all you can…about everything you can. Be the best you can…you can still reach your dream.”
While we believe in diversity and support the right of a student and/or athlete to choose to study and perform at a school of their choice, we also recognize the relevance of tradition and pride in supporting Historically Black College and Universities.
While we believe in diversity and support the right of a student and/or athlete to choose to study and perform at a school of their choice, we also recognize the relevance of tradition and pride in supporting black colleges.
A lot of HBCUs are feeling the pinch in enrollment even though they may offer scholarships and opportunities. At one time, these hallowed halls of learning offered the greatest  and only opportunity for African Americans to get a quality education and play sports at an optimum level. Many of the past and present leaders in nearly every aspect of society were products of an Black college.

Finally, if another student player ever replies, “I don’t know ANY.”
Boy, do I have an answer now…

A Saga That Has No Ending

A Saga That Has No Ending

In this age of instant social media fame, nothing or no one escapes the spotlight.
A while back, there was a YouTube clip of the nine-year old girl that has already caught the eye of the major college basketball powers.
How easy it is to be caught up in the hype about the next great sports phenom! Since I raised a couple of promising athletes, I can tell you that little girl will make two or three career changes by the time she gets to puberty. That’s if she’s allowed.
This is not a unique since this seems to occur just about every year since sports popularity exploded across the universe. Every generation has their version of the proverbial “greatest of all-time” tag being pinned on some youth who probably hadn’t been on their first date yet.
Still, this anomaly has morphed into the very fabric that grooms this nation’s attitude and moral values.

They had their own legends
When this country righted itself after a grueling war that emancipated former slaves, they went on to create their own existence and eventually demanded their rightful place in society. It was the hunger for an education that propelled their desire to gain respect and the equanimity they sought.
That pursuit defined the character and determination that helped shape and mold the society we share today. Those values also fueled the competitive spirit in all of us.
Young black student “athletes” emerged on the American landscape and became supreme in their quest to prove they could compete.  Many became dominant figures in education, sports, entertainment, medicine…well, you get the picture.
There was a jubilant pride in accomplishing something which gave all of us something to hope for…honor, achievement and of course, wealth.
Playing sports became a new stream of revenue, even though very few African Americans made a decent living at it.

Until Their Eyes Were Open
I received an email from a friend about a new book entitled, “Basketball Slave: The Andy Johnson Harlem Globetrotter/NBA Story” written by his son Mark Johnson. It depicts a sobering tale of what happened during the glory days of the Globetrotters, and the saga of a spiraling super talented but misguided youth who forsook an education to pursue his dream of fame and fortune.
Sound familiar? Sixty years ago, when this episode occurred, you could roll out a ball onto any playground and name any number of young men who suffered the same fate.
I came across another article I had saved from the 1980’s about Curtis Jones, a Detroit playground legend who sued his former high school basketball coach and several college figures for 15 million dollars, claiming he was ‘pushed’ through the system and allowed to ‘forfeit’ an education because he was such a great basketball talent.
I recalled Lloyd Daniels, one of the most heralded New York City high school basketball legends, and how he was ‘trafficked’ from one high school to another because of his coveted dominant skills on the court. Somehow, he landed at University of Nevada – Las Vegas even though he hardly had the grades to get out of high school. He eventually slipped into oblivion after several controversial incidents and played for five years in the NBA with six different teams.

And then there was the “Goat”…The classic story.
Earl Manigault’s legacy still hangs over the now defunct Rucker Playground where he held court every summer. Despite the efforts of Holcombe Rucker to mentor him and help him escape the dark cloak of the mean streets of Harlem, he couldn’t embrace the slow Southern culture and rigid commitment to play college ball at Johnson C. Smith. Eventually, he fell to the lure of the drug culture and never reached the first rung of success that was within reach.
And for the lack of space, I cannot name the long litany of other failed careers that has pretty much gone unnoticed and not shared with youths of the following generations.
On the other hand, it has become fashionable for the media and fans to prophesy on which “can’t miss” prospect will be the next lottery pick or are just waiting to jump to the pros (if they’re lucky enough).,
Periodically, social consciousness kicks in and statistical reports pop up revealing the debilitating graduation rates of college athletes, but that sound is muffled long enough for us to enjoy the exploits of these super talented athletes who are deprived (and or deprived themselves) – of getting a decent education. It is a greater disservice when they are not encouraged to make the most of their educational opportunities.
Now I know there is always going to be a strong argument by those who buy into “get the money while you can” theory and certainly, it is the American way but many who choose to go that route eventually fall to have completeness in the final analysis of their lives. The old folks used to say, “A fool and his money…” you know the rest.
And you and I know…to whom much is given…much more is expected.

That’s just my two cents…what do you think?

Resurrecting HBCUs

Resurrecting HBCUs

“Understanding history makes the present more explicable in terms of where we started from and how we got to this point”

The general population is so media-driven that they jump on the bandwagon without getting behind the facts. There’s growing debate about the “State of HBCUs”…and none of our highly respected media icons have made this a cause celebre.
Secondly, the alternative argument is that HBCU alumni do not support their schools as a whole and the schools ARE NOT USING SOCIAL MEDIA as a powerful tool to rally their constituents.
Also, it is unfathomable how in the bat of an eye, even our own ethnic group has found grounds to denigrate HBCUs and the contributions they have made and continue to make in the world of academics, sports, and just about every other aspect of society.
It is a fact that Black colleges offer an unique educational and cultural experience, and a large contingent of African Americans still attend these institutions and receive a quality education.  After all, the bottom line is… “you only get out of it as much as you put in…no matter where you attend.”
In the matter of “TRADITION,” our forefathers were PROUD of being a part of one of the last existing Black entities that is now being castigated, ignored, or non-supported by those who don’t see their immeasurable contributions.
Isn’t it odd that regardless of their conditions, very few predominately white colleges or universities ever face such scrutiny?
“If the conversation is about “Black Lives Matter” – community development and current wars against poverty and racial inequality, historically Black colleges rank deserve the highest priority. In any historic or present context, HBCUs are among the institutions best equipped to take students from any economic, racial (diversity) or cultural circumstance and create within them industry-ready professionals driven to success.” (from the Huffington Post blog, “No Greater Waste of Money than an HBCU)

Who can argue the merits of a long line of achievers who have risen to world acclaim and are game changers? This includes a Who’s Who list: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Ret. Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James, US Army Ret., former NYC Mayor David Dinkins…and thousands more.
They are meshed between the mass of African American game changers who attended predominately white institutions (ie. Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, etc.)
I have had many heated arguments with ‘brothers’ who are victims of ‘mainstream fever’…you know…they matriculated from schools other than HBCUs whose rankings are celebrated (and some who aren’t), but they swear by them…donate to them and have no compunction about making demoralizing statements about HBCUs.
The present state of Black colleges did not start with their present conditions. It has been a potpourri of incidents- from racial isolation to insufficient resources to POOR management and VISION…too much exculpatory behavior and lack of skilled leadership…too much dependency on ‘Systems’ whether governmental and philanthropic.
While the furor is about the schools that have fallen through the net, not enough is being said about those that have utilized their available resources to breed success…i.e. going outside the boundaries to bolster their success rates.
Models of stability and progressive growth are schools like Hampton University, where Dr. William Harvey, who stepped onto campus amid a firestorm of insolvency debt and indecision, authored a vigorous campaign that has seen the Virginia campus transformed into a template of consistent growth: new buildings and programs, including one of the first proton cancer treatment centers on the East coast.
Michael Sorrell, a product of some of the elite PWIs, brought solvency to a small HBCU- Paul Quinn COllege- that had been on the brink of extinction. Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack, one of the youngest serving presidents of a four-year institution in the nation  has brought a fresh leadership that has reinvigorated the school.
There are numerous other schools that have ramped up the self-help addendum, like Claflin University, North Carolina A&T University and Prairie View A&M University, who are among those at the top of the list with their aggressive alumni support.
Still, there are so many sore points that need to be addressed…i.e. the drain of top students and declining academic and athletic enrollment. Undeniably, the barn door opened with the advent of integration that saw the more ‘profitable’ programs vacuum the top talent that most HBCUs use to take for granted. (Granted, everyone reserves the right to make their own choices and take advantage of the opportunities, wherever they are).
Even though this evolution has emerged, the alarm has not been heeded enough by some other black colleges who have taken a woeful blow to their rosters. Mysteriously, the only reply has been excuses and resignation.
It is a fact that Hall of Famers continue to emerge from these programs (HBCUs) as well as in other areas like education, medicine, space exploration, etc. They should be asking to make a difference, too.
I believe that everything happens for a reason….this is a wake -up call for America…Why would anyone want ANY educational institution fail? Why the sense of apathy?
So, ponder this… IF they are allowed to fail…we only have ourselves to blame.
Send us your opinions…

Pointers
-Little known facts: From the onset, many of the pioneer educators (teachers, coaches, etc.) matriculated from a predominately white institution and opted to enter the Black college family to teach and nurture the underprivileged.
-Even if you did not attend a HBCU…you still are a part of their legacy. A good example, many major contributors were alumni from PWIs as well as philanthropists of every ethnic group.
-Other ethnic groups vigorously support and proclaim allegiance to their Alma maters and somewhere…a member of your family or a friend probably attended a Black college.