Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Real Role Models profiled in UT blog

“Real Role Models”: The lesser known celebrities
by Marjorie Simoens
Published: March 1

NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said it blatantly: “I am not a role model.”

But how is that so?

Barkley had a successful career in basketball, had the fame to follow, and the money to show for it. How do these things not equate to a role model?

According to the book “Real Role Models: Successful African Americans Beyond Pop Culture” by Joah Spearman, alumnus of the university, and Dr. Louis Harrison Jr., associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, young African Americans need positive and real role models beyond famous celebrities and athletes

Read the rest here.

Real Role Models in the NY Times

Searching for Role Models
Feb. 8, 2010

When Alabama’s Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy he made sure to mention his father, Mark Ingram Sr., a former N.F.L. receiver who was an important member of the Giants’ 1991 Super Bowl victory and a role model to him.

However, Mark Ingram Sr. spent his son’s Heisman year in prison after being sentenced to seven years for bank fraud and money laundering charges. Even still, the elder Ingram tries to remain a positive force in his son’s life (the two speak on the phone regularly) by telling him not to make the same mistakes he did. Is that what a role model should encourage?

February is Black History Month, which leads me to an important question: what kind of role models should student-athletes have? I once heard a professor say, “while striving to achieve hoop dreams, many young black children are having academic nightmares.” Dr. Louis Harrison Jr., an African-American studies professor at the University of Texas, is the man behind that line and this month, “Real Role Models,” a book I co-authored with him, addresses this important issue.

Read the rest here @

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Joah Spearman Inteview on KUT (Austin's NPR affiliate)

"Many young people – perhaps many young African Americans – may have looked to him as a role model. It’s not unusual to single out the rich, famous, and talented as role models. But that can leave out a lot of qualities. Austin authors Joah Spearman and Louis Harrison, Jr. have written a book profiling the not-so-rich-and-famous. But African Americans who they say make good role models by virtue of their character, hard work, and emphasis on education – not necessarily their fame. Joah Spearman and Louis Harrison, Jr. are the authors of Real Role Models: Successful African Americans Beyond Pop Culture." Listen to the segment here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Examiner says...

"In this day and age, with absurd role models like Paris Hilton and ultimately disappointing role models like Tiger Woods, young people need to have real role models in their lives..."

Read on here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Real Role Models in The Advocate

Keeping It Real
Jan. 16, 2010
Pro athletes have influence on youngsters

* Advocate Opinion page staff
* Published: Jan 16, 2010 - Page: 9B

Former NBA and former Auburn star Charles Barkley was quoted several years ago as saying, “I am not a role model.” He has been called many things over the years, but role model is not one of them.

Barkley has admitted having trouble with alcohol, gambling and his weight, while also being outspoken and critical about politics, sports and other topics that interest him.

I admire Barkley for his candor and his ability to laugh at himself. But being a role model to children — as many professional athletes, coaches, teachers, law enforcement authorities, celebrities (actors and artists) and politicians are — is no laughing matter.

However, holding up professional athletes as role models is particularly problematic as revelations surface about steroid use among former MLB players (Mark McGwire), former NFL players (Dana Stubblefield) and former track athletes (Marion Jones).

The public’s patience, confidence and willingness to forgive and forget transgressions and give athletes another chance also are eroded amid reports of infidelity among golfers (Tiger Woods); NBA (Gilbert Arenas) and NFL players (Plaxico Burress) packing weapons “for protection” and players in both leagues continuing to violate the leagues’ substance abuse and personal conduct policies.

Children see the games and commercials on TV and the Internet and/or listen to them on the radio. They urge their parents to buy the $100-plus jerseys, uniforms, shoes and equipment. They spend countless hours on the playgrounds, fields and courts and in the weight room trying to get “faster, higher and stronger” so they can “be like Mike” (Michael Jordan) and so many others.

Professional athletes have influence. I would not call it power. That means many young people will do almost anything to mimic athletes and have the “bling, bling” (jewelry), the women and the men, the parties, the entourage, the clothing, the cars, the houses, the notoriety and perceived glory that athletes have.

But at what price?

That’s not to say all professional athletes are bad people. Many, if not most, athletes are good people.

Take Baton Rouge’s own Seimone Augustus, a former Capitol High School and former LSU star, who plays in the WNBA. Take Warrick Dunn, a former Catholic High and former Florida State star, who retired from the NFL after playing for the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As of May 6, Dunn had helped 85 single parents buy homes through Homes for the Holidays, a program his foundation began in 1997 in Tampa, Fla. His mother, police Cpl. Betty Smothers, was murdered in January 1993 while working an off-duty security job in Baton Rouge. She was supporting six children.

In addition to those efforts, Dunn recognizes outstanding high school football players in the Baton Rouge area with the annual Warrick Dunn award.

He is a true role model.

A friend, Louis Harrison Jr., an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin who works with student-athletes, recently e-mailed me about reviewing a book, “Real Role Models,” that he co-authored. Can’t wait.

Johnny Brooks is an assistant metro editor for The Advocate. His e-mail address is

Friday, December 11, 2009

Still searching for real role models...

I just read Tiger Woods' statement that he will be taking a leave of absence from golf in light of his ongoing media storm stemming from his infidelity. This proves to all of us that athletes and celebrities are not beyond human and must not be put on pedestals of kings.

It's tough to write this because I have long been an avid fan of Tiger's. He's the best sports figure we've had since Michael Jordan left the Chicago Bulls. He's built a worthwhile foundation and has inspired millions of kids to play the game of golf. But this news is tough to take in stride.

That's surely why Tiger is taking a break and it's definitely why we must continue to search for and identify real role models beyond fame and riches.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Real Role Models available for pre-order on Amazon

Real Role Models: Successful African Americans Beyond Pop Culture (University of Texas Press) is now available on Amazon for pre-order. The paperback version ($19.95) and the hardback edition ($45.00) of the book will be available online and in stores throughout Black History Month 2010.

When Dr. Louis Harrison, Jr., and I set out to write this book our primary focus was on interviewing people whose stories of success could truly impact and inspire young people, with a particular emphasis on young African Americans. With those profiled in this book - including Melody Barnes, Domestic Policy Adviser to President Obama, Bev Kearney, women's track and field coach at Univ. of Texas, and Leonard Pitts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist - we believe we have captured a unique, well-rounded and first-of-its-kind collection of role models, even beyond the Black community.

On behalf of Louis and myself, we thank you for supporting our efforts to inspire young African Americans through this book and please let us know if there are any particular individuals, organizations or schools that would be particularly interested in hearing more about Real Role Models.

Best regards,

Joah Spearman

Monday, November 2, 2009

Real Role Models of the future @ I4RC

The Institute for Responsible Citizenship is an organization based in Washington, D.C., that I am extremely proud to support. One of the participants was the first person in his family to attend college and now he's a Rhodes Scholar, another is Truman Scholar.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

NY Times: Ravens’ Foxworth Is Building Home Museum to the Civil Rights Movement

September 15, 2009

Ravens’ Foxworth Is Building Home Museum to the Civil Rights Movement

PIKESVILLE, Md. — With each step down his basement stairs, Domonique Foxworth descends into his own private bomb shelter. Above ground, he earns millions covering the N.F.L.’s top receivers for the Baltimore Ravens. Below it in his cellar, he seeks different company.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has a dream in the cover of an autographed memoir. Malcolm X defies a detractor in a typed letter from 1963. Rosa Parks sits, Tommie Smith clenches and Thurgood Marshall reasons in framed and signed artifacts that form Foxworth’s growing museum of the civil rights movement.

“Other players around the league, their basements are all jerseys of themselves and their friends in the N.F.L. and the N.B.A.,” Foxworth said. “I feel more comfortable with these people around me.”

Later, looking at the collection, he said: “Not often, but on occasion I feel guilty. I have all this because I run real fast and I tackle people. I recognize why I’ve been able to do this. It’s not all because of me or my family or my teammates or my coaches. It’s more because of the faces on the walls in my basement.”

Foxworth’s face would not fit on the N.F.L.’s current Mount Blushmore of Michael Vick, Donte’ Stallworth, Pacman Jones and others. At 26, he has never started a full season. He swallows books whole, is weighing potential business schools and plans to “gobble up degrees” before he retires.

Not just a hobby, Foxworth’s passion for civil rights will inform his handling of the league’s coming labor negotiations, in which he will participate as a member of the union’s executive committee. He candidly, some would say audaciously, vows to speak for forgotten fans and stadium workers “who would be hurt by a lockout more than the players,” he said.

Foxworth has watched the occasional interviewer stop cold when he acknowledges growing up outside Baltimore decidedly middle class. (“They’re like, ‘Where’s the strife?’, and the story mysteriously never runs,” he said.) As he tries to live his N.F.L. life far differently from the public’s image of it, speaking to middle schools and starting nonprofit charities, every now and then he grounds himself. Underground.

“This is the Little Rock Nine,” Foxworth said, pointing to an autographed print of the black students who in 1957 were blocked from attending a segregated school in Arkansas. “All this stuff is really powerful to me. It motivates me. Football and community work and just day to day. To not waste.”

Foxworth’s father, Lorinzo, attended an all-black elementary school in Charlotte, N.C., before joining the Army and raising two sons with his wife, Karen. In bouncing from post to post, the family made sure to tour the local university — Indiana, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, West Point. Perhaps that is why Lorinzo Foxworth, now retired and pursuing a doctorate in business training and development, speaks of his younger son’s “matriculation through life.”

Lorinzo Foxworth said: “But he has a sixth sense we couldn’t impact. He always had a knack for asking the question of why? How does it work? How did it start? And it all ends with something he wants to impact, to manifest in things that matter to him.”

Domonique left high school near Baltimore midway through his senior year in 2001 so he could begin classes early at the University of Maryland. He entered with an interest in computer engineering but was turned on to history and earned a degree in American studies three years later. He did so despite starring on the football team; he was then drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round in 2005.

Blocked by the Pro Bowl cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Dre’ Bly, Foxworth never developed a consistent role in Denver and was traded to the Atlanta Falcons before last season. He was so quick on man-to-man coverage that the Ravens bought him away as a free agent with a four-year contract worth a guaranteed $16.5 million, and potentially $27.2 million, to tighten what was already one of the N.F.L.’s stingiest defenses.

Foxworth did not splurge on a Lamborghini. He still drives the Range Rover from his draft year. He did call Mark Mitchell, a collector and dealer of African-American memorabilia based in Fairfax, Va., to do his own kind of splurging.

“Professional athletes really have an interest in African-American history, not just for themselves but to pass it along to their families,” said Mitchell, whose clients include the former Washington Redskins Art Monk and Charles Mann and the basketball player Chris Webber. “I find them very intelligent, curious. They’re almost stunned — honored, in a way, to hold in their hands a letter from Frederick Douglass. They have respect for the people who helped bring about the world they live in. You think of athletes as privileged, in a corner by themselves, but they have a curiosity that would surprise people.”

Foxworth’s curiosity will help guide his own playbook for the union-league negotiations; he will be the youngest member of the players’ 11-man executive committee. He said he understood his responsibility to secure the best collective bargaining agreement for his fellow players. Yet he refuses to forget the thousands of strangers — parking attendants, restaurant owners, souvenir hawkers and more — who would be financially devastated by a prolonged lockout.

“It’s not us against the league, who gets the most money — that’s pretty juvenile,” Foxworth said. “We don’t get hurt, we hurt people around us. Obviously it’ll hurt the billionaire owners a bit. It’ll hurt some players who may not get their chance for a life-changing payday. But by and large, the people that we hurt most are just regular people. I just want to introduce that there’s a third party that doesn’t have a voice. Someone needs to remind both of us that this isn’t a game.”

Few people would recognize Foxworth anywhere but his native Baltimore, if there. He is only 5 feet 11 inches and 180 pounds. He avoids telling people he meets what he does for a living because of what he called “the default image that people have of football players, the default story of the life.”

He added, “If I can have a regular conversation on a plane about life and general things, I would much rather do that than have him ask me what it’s like to cover Randy Moss.”

Foxworth says he has no specific plans for retirement, his body tapped but his mind just reaching stride. Get a doctorate or two, he said. Maybe build recreation centers with academic bents. Keep adding to his museum, which he considers less hobby than homage. He wants a Medgar Evers piece. Bobby Kennedy.

Too bad the walls will never include one long-lost item that Foxworth’s father still recalls. When Domonique was 8, just starting Pop Warner football, he walked into his parents’ bedroom with a shockingly good picture he had drawn. It wasn’t Junior Seau or Jerry Rice. It was a parachute.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obama: "Our kids can't all aspire to be the next Lebron or Lil' Wayne"

Excerpt: "They might think they've got a pretty good jump shot or a pretty good flow, but our kids can't all aspire to be the next LeBron or Lil Wayne. I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court justice. I want them aspiring to be president of the United States."