The Death of Kobe Bryant

I am from Chicago, Illinois.  Michael Jordan will forever be loved in Chicago.  From my first day in Los Angeles, I knew one thing –  well maybe two things: The weather was loved, and the City of Los Angeles loved Kobe Bryant.

When I first learned the news of Kobe Bryant’s death, I was in the grocery store and I received a text saying TMZ has reported that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. I called the person that sent me the text and said that’s not true because no one in the store acted like anything happened. Moments later I received an alert from ESPN concerning the news. At that moment, a lady standing near me dropped a carton of eggs and tears began to flow in the store. At that moment, I knew it was true.

Shortly after receiving that news, they said five people were dead in the crash. I called my father who is a die hard Lakers fan to ask him if he had heard the news.  He was quiet. Then I asked him if Kobe’s family was in the helicopter as well, he said he didn’t know. Later we learned that his 13-year-old daughter was in the helicopter and they were headed to her basketball game.

Kobe & Gigi still had so much to give to the world and it just didn’t seem fair. Kobe had transitioned well from the game of basketball and was settling in on his life after the game. Gigi was just getting started.

The quiet hush in the store felt like everyone lost a family member. I’ve never seen or heard a store that quiet before. For a moment, race & gender didn’t make a difference.  I saw everyone talking, crying, and hugging each other. Then I called my brother who is also a Lakers fan and asked him his thoughts on why a death of someone great brings us together. Why can’t we be that way with each other on a daily basis? Why can’t we appreciate each other while we are alive? Why can’t we settle differences while we are alive? And why can’t we love while we are alive?

Kobe Bryant’s death taught us that it doesn’t make a difference how old, how much money, how talented you are. When God says its time, its time. We often act like we have forever on this earth, when, in fact, we don’t. We need to live life now and not wait, because tomorrow isn’t promised.

Nippy Hussle & Kobe Bryant’s deaths both rocked Los Angeles, but in very different ways. Both incidents placed attention on Life itself. Vanessa Bryant and her children lost a husband, dad and sister all in one day. How unfair is that? How must they go on? How many times have Kobe & Gigi gone to the gym or a game and came back home? Who would have thought on that foggy Sunday morning they wouldn’t make it back home?

I am so thankful that I woke up and was able to help someone, encourage someone, mentor, and make someone laugh or just listen to them. Tomorrow isn’t promise for any of us. What are you going to do with your life, if given the opportunity to wake up each day? Think about Gigi, she was only 13, and the other lives that were lost on that Sunday Morning. That Sunday Morning made me so appreciative of life and the opportunities that are given to me.  I will never again take anything for granted. Coach is out……..

Being a Black Man From My Perspective

When I was a young boy, I often asked my parents, “why are you so hard on me and expect so much of me?” They told me that the world would not be kind to me. To be honest with you, I didn’t really know what he was talking about, but I nodded my head anyway.

I grew up playing basketball, but I always knew I wasn’t destined to go to the NBA so I used education as a tool for success. I had never heard anything positive about being an African American male from society. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  is the reason why I’m a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

I wanted to dispel the myth that African American men are uneducated, lazy and don’t take care of their families. I’m neither of what I just described. Is there pressure being a black male? The answer is yes! I feel it every day. I have to work harder than everyone else.  I always have to prove myself and I have to carry myself accordingly. One question I ask all the time is, why do I have to do these things because I’m a black male? It feels like I can never relax for a second. Why is it that people don’t trust black males? They automatically assume the worst from us and don’t let us make a mistake; it’s the end of the world. I love being a black man and all that comes with it. I know who I am, but society judges me differently. Why can’t I wear a hoodie? Why can’t I wear a certain hairstyle? Why am I judged so harshly? Why are the rules different for me? Why do I get pulled over by the police? Why can’t people see me for who I am and not “just” a black man?

I understand it and deal with it accordingly, but what about my young Verb students?  How are they handling it? Are they comfortable in their own skin? Why do teachers teach down to black men?

I would say, I have been very successful throughout my journey. I feel like when I win, we all win, but reality tells me that isn’t the case. As black men our success’ and failures divide us as men. The work environment can feel like a street environment because your success can be another man’s misery, so you have to watch your back? What happened to I win, we all win?

These circumstances make you surround yourself with only like-minded individuals but that again forces us to separate ourselves from each other. In my mind, when President Barack Obama won, I won!  I thought the success of Barack Obama would get people to see me in a different light. I guess I was wrong. I’m not giving up the fight because being a black male is awesome thing to be and I wouldn’t have it in any other way.

The belief in God gets me through my tough days as well as my good days. He knows what my calling Is. I want to thank my parents for preparing me for this world and teaching me to love myself and who I am. For that I am so comfortable in my skin. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an Alpha I’m carrying out the legacy you started and I promise I won’t let you down. To all of my Fraternity brothers, you guys make it cool to be Black & Educated. Mary Innanculli you gave me my first leadership position at Seton Academy. Brother Tim King founder of Urban Prep Academy you let me shine so bright and let me do my thing from a leadership standpoint. I am so well prepared. Father Privett & Dr. Odom you guys believe in me so much that words cannot express how I feel. I appreciate the both of you because you have let me loose to do positive things and mentor our young men.

 

Keeping Black and Brown Boys in Class & Engaged

Research has shown that students who experience discipline that removes them from the classroom are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school and become involved in the juvenile justice system. Studies have shown this can result in decreased earning potential and added costs to society, such as incarceration and lost tax revenue.

Boy’s account for 71 percent of all school suspensions. Fifty-nine percent of Black boys and 42 percent of Hispanic boys report being suspended. (U.S. Dept of Ed and Schott Foundation Report)Here are some of the reasons why I feel that Black & Brown boys do not want to be in the classroom or at school.

  • They don’t feel respected by their teachers
  • They don’t feel that they are a welcome member of the school community
  • They don’t have positive relationships with faculty & staff
  • They are not interested in what is being taught
  • They can sense teachers undervalue their intelligence (based on rigor of work and thoughtfulness of lesson plans, etc.)

If you have high quality instruction in every classroom and make sure that the lesson is engaging then boys of color would see school a little different. Also teachers should find a way to get to know their students. Teachers can do this by asking students what they like to do outside of school or attending extracurricular events that their students are involved in. It is also okay to let your students know that you care for them and are concerned about their well-being. Look for ways to let students share their own diverse experiences, whether it’s through spoken word, in conversations, writing or videos. Also they are bothered that some of their teachers don’t understand. Understanding conveys care. Be honest about who you are and your purpose.

Maintain high expectations but throw a dash of love in there. High expectations without nurturing or love will cause a sense of defeat to develop in the boys. You want to show them that you believe that they can reach that goal and that you’re here to help them get there. Be as consistent with positive reinforcements as you are with negative reinforcements—this will build trust. Learning is sustained through trusting the person who is doing the teaching. Some boys of color do not like to admit their educational struggles in fear of being teased by classmates or feeling inadequate. Pride plays a role due to a lack of disconnect between them and their teachers. In some cases, they act out in class because they do not understand the lesson so they are hoping to get put out of class or they ask can they go to the restroom and take their time coming back to class. Our Boys of Color need to be motivated and not have them feel like failures when things do not go well.  We have to keep encouraging and show we care and are there for them. It is a lot going on in their lives that we have no clue about.

Teaching all Boys

Here is what I do know:

  • Boy’s account for 71 percent of all school suspensions. Fifty-nine percent of Black boys and 42 percent of Hispanic boys report being suspended.(U.S. Dept of Ed and Schott Foundation Report)
  • Boys comprise 67 percent of all special education students. Almost 80 percent of these are Black and Hispanic males. (USDOE and Schott Foundation Report)
  • Boys are five times more likely than girls to be classified as hyperactive and are 30 percent more likely to flunk or drop out of school. (National Center for Education Statistics)

The goal is to keep our young men out of the street, off their mother’s couch and out of jail. Its crucial as educators we save our young men. Create an open path of communication so parents can come to you with concerns and you can do the same.

Finding the balance of teaching a young man who feels he is going to make it because of his athletic ability and he does not need to be successful in school. This is where a teacher needs not to discourage the young man or prove a point to the young man. Provide him with statistics to help him understand that having an education is just as important in excelling in sports. Punishing our young men, and kicking them out the class is not the way to solve the problem. We have to show our boys as teachers & administrators that we care. Many people in our boy’s life do not care or have given up on them. I always tell the young men that I am here for them and I am willing to help them however I can. Athletics however can be a motivating factor for a young man when it comes to school. Eligibility plays a role at some schools so he has to stay on top of his academics in order for him to play so use that as a tool to help your student-athlete and show that you care that he plays. Showing up to games help develop a good relationship with your student in the classroom.

Boys hear that the way to shine is athletically. And boys get a lot of mixed messages about what it means to be masculine and what it means to be a student. Does being a good student make you a real man? I don’t think so… It is not cool.

I went to an all boys’ high school in Chicago and it really helped me although I was totally against going. That was the first time I had any black male teacher in my life other than my basketball coach. I was truly focused and prepared to go out in the world and be successful. As a teacher I have a great advantage with dealing with boys. I understand what these young males are dealing with and the struggles they face. Many times boys need for someone just to listen. Not only do I consider myself a teacher & coach but also a mentor to the young men. I know when to be tough and I know when they need someone to understand or be an advocate for them.