Friday, February 17, 2012

When Does the Cycle End? AI and TO Struggle to Provide for Families

It truly saddens me that two of my favorite athletes of all time, Allen Iverson (AI), and Terrell Owens (TO), have had to resort to extending their playing careers past their ability to gain employment in the NBA and NFL respectively, because of financial troubles. Many have written and examined how these two and many other professional athletes manage to squander hundreds of millions of dollars before they reach the age of 40, but for me what is especially troubling about these falls from grace is that their troubles signal that they will have difficulty maintaining their families. It has been well documented by VH1 that TO has multiple children by multiple women who have recently sued him as he has become increasingly unable to pay child support. Iverson also has a starting five worth of children whom he currently can't provide for, which leaves me to wonder about his ability to be a father. Both men came from homes that lacked a consistent male presence, and now after attaining so much success using their physical gifts, that cycle will now continue with their own families as they struggle to find work to provide.

Magic Johnson, Dave Bing, David Robinson and others have been lauded because of their ability to transition from a career in athletics to other endeavors in business, politics, and education respectively. A common theme between these men is their level of educational attainment. I'm talking more than just "walking the stage" here as Magic Johnson did not finish his studies at Michigan St, but did recognize the need to continue amassing intellectual capital as he began to focus on his business ventures. Dave Bing graduated from Syracuse University and had a career as a businessman in the auto industry before running for May of Detroit. "The Admiral" of course completed his studies at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and was central in opening the Carver Academy, and later the Admiral Capital Group. In contrast, former Baltimore Raven, Chris McAllister, graduated from the University of Arizona, but has been unemployed since having his contract voided in 2009, and has no money after an 11-year NFL career. I used to beat the drum for making athletes stay in school so that they might develop the type of know-how that would prevent these baller-to-broke bum outcomes, but I later realized that if athletes don't want to go to school, they just cheat the process and end up putting the school in a compromising position. I do however, still feel it is imperative that those who view athletics as their Golden Ticket, must also understand that if they don't develop an acumen in something else besides, dribbling, hitting, and running, that these narratives will continue to occur in high frequency, to the detriment of numerous families.

The key is the creation of a value system where young people, and particularly those who are able to rise from underprivileged populations, understand that the shelf life of physical capital is finite, so it is imperative that intellectual development continues as physical capacity starts to wane. If you are an athlete who can no longer touch the top of the backboard, or run a 4.3, you are then able to leverage the capital you have built up with those gifts and use your mind to create a sustainable life for yourself and those you are charged to protect. Buying out bars, and other outlandish wealth display behaviors, will not lead to a life that can be passed on through multiple generations as those in historically privileged communities are able to do. When this value system gets passed on along with the physical traits coded in our DNA, then hopefully the cycle of fatherless families can start to be stemmed. I truly hope that both TO and AI get a run somewhere because their children deserve better and were not the ones wasting money that should have been stashed on their behalf.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Black History Month Must Have Connections

Since 1926, through the brainchild of Carter G. Woodson, there has been an annual celebration of the accomplishments and contributions that Black Americans have made in this country.  Since 1976 February has been designated as Black History Month, and the dominant narrative in the country during the 28-29 days usually centers on a reflection of the Civil Rights Movement, and it's central players. The legacies of activists such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medger Evers, and Fannie Lou Hamer are celebrated. The contributions of George Washington Carver, Benjamin Banneker, and Madame CJ Walker are lauded. The artistic greatness of Josephine Baker, Oscar Micheaux, and countless others is showcased.  While the celebration of these feats is inspiring and helps provide a solid foundation upon which a strong sense of Black identity can be built, I wish there was more discussion of the connections of that legacy to current Black life and global citizenship so that there would be a greater sense that Black History did not die when Martin and Malcolm were assassinated, but instead is living and vibrant with new pages being added to the record everyday.  In addition, this history is firmly embedded within the larger American tale in ways that need to be illuminated now more than ever.

Ethnic studies programs in K-12 schools are under assault today, with recent court rulings in Arizona serving as the prime example. This comes at a time when the notions of race and ethnicity are as complicated as ever to decipher.  This means it is incumbent upon both teachers and parents to help make connections both within their ethnic groups and between groups which will promote a better understanding of shared experience. So if, for example you are reading about Dr. King, you can look, for example at his education at Morehouse College, and examine who leads that institution today.  You can also look at some of the protests he participated in, and compare them to current protest movements both domestically and abroad to get an idea for the issues that are currently being fought for such as fair housing, health care, fair business practice, etc. In this way, the teachable moment that Black History Month embodies becomes instructive and a unifying moment instead of a divisive one. The notion of race has become more complicated globally and skin color alone is not the most salient aspect of racial identification for many young people. So in kind, those responsible for guiding today's youth must therefore adapt so that young Black children can continue to use Black History Month to build and affirm a  sense of self while also helping them see how they are interconnected to their peers.