Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Book Progress Report

Friends and Colleagues (and Strangers),

Just writing in to tell you that the book is coming along nicely. Both Louis and I continue to be fully motivated and excited about what this book is becoming, slowly but surely. We truly believe this is a book that will help inspire young African Americans and it will move the needle forward for encouraging young students to pursue careers in the wide range of industries and avenues available to them, regardless of what popular culture and convention limits them to.

So far, Louis and I have interviewed esteemed professors, respected business executives, successful entrepreneurs, award-winning consultants and organization leaders. We look forward to continuing our progress and meeting other 'Real Role Models' in the process. Please feel free to email me and suggest any individuals you believe fit the profile of a real African-American role model.

Please continue to check in to the blog where I'll keep you updated and informed on what has inspired Louis and I to write this book.



P.S. Please keep the blog comments coming.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Parents are still the real heroes

Poll: Young People's Heroes Are Parents

Sunday August 19, 2007 7:31 PM


Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON (AP) - When it comes to those they most admire, young people do not look chiefly to the worlds of music, today's wars or history. Instead, they turn to their own families.

Asked to name their heroes, young Americans surveyed by The Associated Press and MTV make their parents the collective top pick. Twenty-nine percent choose their mothers, 21 percent name their fathers and 16 percent pick their parents without specifying which one. Allowed to choose as many heroes as they'd like, nearly half mention at least one of their folks.

``They're really hard workers, and they've done everything in their power to make sure my siblings and I have everything we've needed,'' said Stacy Runne, 21, of New Bern, N.C., now a student at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, N.J. ``They're just good people.''

Next in line as the poll's top heroes: 11 percent choose friends, 10 percent God, 8 percent their grandmother, 7 percent their brother and 5 percent a teacher or professor.

Jacquelynne Eccles, a University of Michigan psychology professor who has studied young people, says surveys she has helped conduct since 1980 have consistently found that parents are youths' most oft-named heroes.

``They're gradually moving out of the family, which is what they should be doing, but that doesn't mean that they feel less close to their family,'' Eccles said. ``Parents often take it personally and believe it's a rejection of the family, when in fact it's really a broadening out.''

Also getting frequent mentions as heroes are members of the U.S. military, firefighters and police officers, as well as boyfriends, sisters, grandfathers and coaches. Two percent choose themselves.

Martin Luther King is named by 4 percent, making the late civil rights leader the most frequently mentioned historical figure or celebrity. Winning 1 percent each are former Vice President Al Gore, television personality Oprah Winfrey, President Bush, golfer Tiger Woods, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and the late Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter.

For his heroes, Daniel Voss, 16, of Atkins, Iowa, included Jesus Christ, author J.K. Rowling, Thomas Jefferson and retired basketball star David Robinson.

``All those people have been very successful in their fields, but will engage in helping their communities and not letting fame get to their heads,'' Voss said.

Even comic book characters make the grade, with Superman and Spiderman each named by 1 percent and Batman close behind.

``Spiderman fights for the innocent, fights for justice and has moral quandaries,'' said Rick Montalvo, 14, soon to be a high school freshman in Chicago. ``He reflects the feelings we as human beings have ourselves.''


The AP-MTV poll was conducted by Knowledge Networks Inc. from April 16 to 23, and involved online interviews with 1,280 people aged 13 to 24. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Role Model? Not so much.

Too much, too fast for Michael Vick

Updated: August 20, 2007, 2:58 PM ET

There really isn't much left to say about Michael Vick now that he has accepted a plea agreement in the wake of his indictment on federal dogfighting charges. It will be interesting to see how harshly he is punished for his transgressions. It also will be intriguing to see if Vick has any semblance of an NFL career left once he finishes serving time in prison. What I'm wondering today, however, is if the next athlete with superstardom foisted upon them can learn anything from what happened to the Atlanta Falcons' two-time Pro Bowler.

The one aspect of Vick's story that hasn't received nearly enough attention is his celebrity. The man simply became too big too quickly, and that is one reason that he is in his current predicament. Keep in mind that this isn't just about money, posses and extremely poor decision-making. It's about a big-time talent with way too much hype and an inability to realize the responsibility that comes with that combination.

I have no interest in making excuses for Vick. He broke the law; he pays the price. But there's also a part of me that believes he would've been better off if so many people hadn't fallen in love with his potential. Even when the Atlanta Falcons handed him a 10-year, $130 million contract in December 2004, that money was based as much on his value as a marketing megastar as it was on his mesmerizing ability. That also happened to be the first serious mistake Falcons owner Arthur Blank made: He believed his star was mature enough to deliver on that kind of promise.

As it turned out, that commitment only gave Vick more reason to carry himself like an untouchable icon. He clearly had an air of invincibility because so many of his problems were downright silly. Whether he was drawing unneeded attention to himself for carrying a suspicious water bottle through Miami Airport or hanging out with sketchy friends who had the potential to ruin his name, he handled himself as if trouble was something he could elude with a timely juke and his trademark speed. Let's face it: The dogfighting charges were just one more example of how Vick believed he could do practically anything he wanted.

This situation can serve to educate other athletes -- and owners -- because there is an obvious danger in validating a player too early in their career. Some pro athletes can handle the responsibility of carrying themselves as professionals once they have financial security and instant celebrity. However, others allow that easy money and the accompanying fame to cloud their decision-making and jeopardize their opportunities. Vick clearly fell into the latter category.

Now it's apparent that more pro football players will have to learn how to package themselves as their careers take off. Though the NFL constantly tries to market teams over individuals, there is simply a greater likelihood that more young stars will draw more hype before their talent justifies it. Look at New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush. Even though he faced a scandal at the start of his career -- there were allegations that his family received improper benefits from sports marketers while he was at USC -- he's handled his fame well.

Bush managed to keep that controversy from damaging his reputation because he was prepared to handle the hype that surrounded him.

"Reggie was caught up in a scandal of his own, but he was a very polished young man," said David Carter, who serves as executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. "You could see it from the way he handled himself in New Orleans and in the media. Unfortunately, the way we judge athletes sometimes is by how well they can manage controversy."

Carter already sees a trend: More athletes will look to develop the polish of a Bush while avoiding the ignorance of Vick. Carter said today's athletes must be more concerned with packaging themselves so they can better handle the trappings that come with fame.

"You see kids picking schools now based on what program can best prepare them for being in the limelight," Carter said. "In fact, it's pretty evident now that athletes don't start packaging themselves and building their brands on draft day anymore. It starts when they sign their letters of intent."

Of course, there are plenty of examples of current stars who can handle their fame, including quarterbacks Peyton Manning of the Colts, Donovan McNabb of the Eagles and Tom Brady of the Patriots. But there are very few men who have had to deal with what Vick created. Unlike those other three players, Vick wasn't a polished player when he became the wealthiest man in football. He was an exceptionally gifted athlete who benefited greatly from the coddling supplied by an organization unwilling to address his flaws until it was too late.

See, what players like Manning, Brady and McNabb understand is that the bigger you become, the more cautious you must be. This lesson clearly never reached Vick and it cost him. Now that he's facing prison time, we can only wonder if he can fathom why his life tumbled out of control. The sad thing is that I doubt he can even apply that type of perspective at such a disturbing time.

But there will come a day when he'll try to make sense of this and I'd imagine his thoughts will drift to some of the points made here. The bottom line is that his career could have been different if he hadn't been given so much so soon. Vick is paying a hefty price for that now. Let's hope that somebody else with his kind of potential can learn something from his story.

Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Politicians or Rappers? Which are better role models?

First it was a New Zealand mayoral candidate, Len Brown, trying to stop Ice Cube from performing in the country because, "We don't need a gangsta rapper working against the future interests of our young. It's time to freeze out the Ice Cube. We don't want him. We don't need him. He is not welcome here." The Ice Cube concert went on as scheduled.

Then it was a Baltimore City Council candidate, Donald Dewar III, trying to stop a Lil' Wayne and Juelz Santana concert from happening in that city because, "
with all the crime and drugs, having anything like that that promotes it seems inappropriate." The concert went on as scheduled.

Thankfully, on both occasions both the law - contractually and free speech - prevailed. My concern is that the rappers (and their attorneys) seem to understand the law more than the men seeking official positions of public service. This is problematic.

We saw the same thing in the early '90s and in recent years with continued attacks on free speech. It amazes me how often politicians look, not to parents and teachers and government and big business, for answers to all of our societal problems, be it Columbine or Don Imus' rant, by attacking popular music.

It's popular for a reason. Perhaps the suburban kid in Montgomery County, Maryland, can't relate to what Lil' Wayne is rapping about, but I'm sure there's a kid in Baltimore that can. That's a reality. Rap music, or heavy metal for that reason, doesn't glamorize criminal lifestyles and street life anymore than movies like Scarface or the upcoming Denzel-Crowe flick, American Gangster. Why don't these politicians attack the movie stars?

Anyway, what I'm really trying to say is that these politicians, especially the aspiring ones, should think about why they really want to run for office. Is it to find something and someone to blame for problems in the community or is it to fix the problems in the community?

Lyrics aside, Ice Cube, Lil' Wayne, and Juelz Santana are making an honest living - just like any other musician - when they otherwise might be on the street truly hurting the community.

By pulling themselves up from nothing to having millions of fans, many of whom will be inspired - not necessarily by their lyrics, but by their accomplishments - I don't think it's a far stretch to say evidence indicates these rappers may be just as much worthy of role model consideration as these aspiring politicians who don't know the law.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Recess: Kindergarten to Capitol Hill

Recess is such a great concept. Most of us think of kindergarten or elementary school when we were allotted an hour or so a day, in between studies, to be kids. Well you're in luck if you were ever the kid who said your favorite part of the school day was recess.

As I walk around Washington, D.C. this month, I can't help but notice how much less traffic there is, on the sidewalks, on the Metro and on the roads. You know why? Because Congress, and just about everyone in D.C. that has a job that is closely linked to Capitol Hill, goes on vacation or leaves D.C. during the month. It's kind of like the American version of what the Greeks do every August.

I'm not sure if Sen. Barack Obama of Chicago or Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta are out playing in sandboxes or jumping rope, but you can be sure they're enjoying their time away from Washington. Washington is one of those cities where if you want to "be somebody" you have to "go, go, go" all the time, nonstop. Very much like Wall Street in New York.

That said, if you're looking for a role model that enjoys recess just as much as you do, look no further than Congress, where even the most-tenured public officials and staffers cherish their breaks. Only we're not talking about 2+2=4 and ABCs, but the U.S. Constitution and tax policy.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Untold tales of achievement


Untold tales of achievement

Too many African Americans have been left out of history books. Their deeds could be examples.

By Claude Lewis
Too bad African Americans are so often judged by their weakest representatives. It's especially tragic because the history of Americans of African descent is a fabulous one, steeped in stunning achievement.

You wouldn't know that from the way American culture represents American history. It is a travesty and a tragedy that African American successes largely have been left out of history books, while their failures have been prominently displayed on the nightly news and in bold headlines.

Undeniably, many young black males contribute to the grim statistics. Too many black men are associated with crime, drug trafficking, shootings and other antisocial behavior. But in spite of all the bad press, and no matter what the people who write history books and run the media want to write, African Americans have a long history of making a difference, a good difference.

The history of their accomplishments has too often been hidden, untold, or ignored. Often, people speak of black history as "the other side of the story," but no, it's not. It's part of The Story, the story of all of us. To speak of black history as somehow "alternative" is to insult achievers and innovators of all colors.

My bet is that the only aspect of black achievement most Americans know about is the sports-and-entertainment part. But in fact there is scarcely a discipline in America at which blacks have not excelled.

The black legacy in sports and entertainment is, of course, justly celebrated. From Jackie Robinson to Jim Brown to LeBron James, despite resistance, despite controversy, blacks have excelled. We hardly have to list the greats in each sport, they are so well-known.

In all the major sports, only the collusion of white owners and players kept blacks from competing and achieving. That includes boxing (Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman) and, more recently, the once-white enclaves of tennis (Serena and Venus Williams) and golf (Tiger Woods).

The world of music and dance is crowded with names like Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughn, Diana Ross, B.B. King, Sammy Davis Jr., Jennifer Hudson, and countless others.

But let's get beyond the obvious. The list of black inventions is nothing short of astonishing, particularly when posed against the black American experience, which has been shaped, in part, by a steady stream of deliberate disadvantage. Somehow, millions of blacks managed to succeed in spite of all that.

Blacks quietly excelled - one almost wants to write "quietly," but it wasn't quiet, it was simply not acknowledged - in the sciences, architecture, inventions, art, and many other fields.

Garrett A. Morgan created many indispensable devices, including a type of traffic signal and a type of hooded respirator similar to the gas masks used by firefighters and rescue teams like those who arrived at ground zero after the 9/11 catastrophe.

Elijah McCoy was a prolific inventor who obtained more than 50 patents. He is joined by Granville T. Woods, known as the "Black Edison." He was among those who developed the "third rail" used in the world's electric railroads. He held more than 60 patents; after his death in 1910, AT&T, General Electric and Westinghouse Brakes purchased the rights to many of his discoveries.

Jan Matzeliger was to shoes what Henry Ford was to cars. Matzeliger discovered a method of mass-producing shoes. His lasting machine made it possible to create footwear for people around the world.

Daniel Hale Williams performed one of the earliest recorded open-heart surgeries July 9, 1893. Work such as his has, in years since, helped save millions of lives. Solomon Fuller was a pioneering neuropathologist and psychiatrist who improved the lives of many suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Samuel L. Kountz was a pioneer in medicine who specialized in kidney transplants.

I cite the achievements in science just to make a point, but I could cite long lists in a lot of fields. Do you like ice cream? How about letting yourself speculate that an American of African descent helped invent it? How about Augustus Jackson, an African American often mentioned among the possible inventors of that frozen confection?

The simple point is that all people really need is opportunity. Once the doors open for them, they can excel, and it has nothing to do with color.

Claude Lewis (clewis97@ptd.net) is a longtime Philadelphia journalist.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Why America May Never Fall in Love With Soccer

David Beckham comes to America to help make soccer the "next big thing", but then something like this happens to one of our country's best soccer players while in a country that supposedly loves its soccer. Is this how they treat the players for the away team in Montenegro? Europe?

Updated: Aug. 8, 2007

UEFA will look into reports of 'monkey' chants

NYON, Switzerland -- European soccer's governing body is looking into reports of alleged racist taunting of American midfielder DaMarcus Beasley by fans in Montenegro during a Champions League qualifier.

The taunts occurred during Tuesday night's game, when he scored his first goal for Glasgow Rangers in a 1-0 victory over FK Zeta in Bijelo Polje, Montenegro. A small section of fans made "monkey chants'' aimed at Beasley and teammate Jean-Claude Darcheville, according to Rangers' Web site.

"We are aware of the case, and now we will first wait for several reports to come in,'' Robert Faulkner, a spokesman for the Union of European Football Associations, said Wednesday.

UEFA will examine reports from the referee, the match delegates and possibly the security officer.

"It happened to me a few years ago when PSV played Red Star in Belgrade, and I can't believe racist abuse is still in football,'' Beasley was quoted as saying on Rangers' Web site. "People can come to a match and jeer, but the racist thing just has to get out of football.''

The 25-year-old Beasley, who was loaned from PSV Eindhoven to Manchester City last season, joined Rangers in June.

Beasley, who made his competitive debut for Rangers in a Scottish Premier League game last weekend, scored on a 20-yard shot in the 81st minute. Rangers advanced 3-0 in the home-and-home, total-goals series and plays Red Star Belgrade or Estonia's Levadia Tallinn for a berth in the Champions League.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press