Saturday, July 13, 2013

0 Philly Basketball Players Come Back to Teach Life Skills

By: Marvin DeBose

In Philadelphia, a city with a huge emphasis on athletics, it’s not too often that people see athletic skills and life skills taught in conjunction with one another.

However, on Sunday, June 30th, at Finley Recreaction Center, about 20 Mt. Airy kids, ranging from ages 6-15, witnessed an exception to that rule, at the 3rd “Players Helping Players” free basketball clinic.

The program was largely coordinated by William Logan, a Mt. Airy/West Oak Lane resident who grew up playing basketball at Finley Recreation Center. Logan played under the tutelage of Mt. Airy basketball coaches, Marvin DeBose Sr. and Bob Pembleton in the early 2000s and went on to earn his Bachelor’s degree from Lockhaven University in Sports and Fitness administration and his Master’s from St. Louis University in Concentration Sports Management.

Logan, who is currently the assistant men’s basketball coach at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, discussed the importance of this program.

“It’s important for people who had success through [the Finley Basketball program] come back and give back,” Logan said. “We to continue to have something positive going on in the community.”

Shooting, passing, defense and other high-energy drills focusing on basketball fundamentals were the main activities in the 2-hour clinic, largely with the assistance of the program’s facilitators Jordan Ingram, a basketball coach at Mercer County Community College in Trenton, NJ. and Kevin Smith, another former Finley player who’s now a mathematics teacher for Universal Companies in South Philadelphia.

Ingram, once a standout basketball player for Archbishop Carroll, as well as a player for Fairleigh Dickinson University, noticed a direct correlation between one’s development as a basketball player and one’s personal development.

“Learning how to work with people, learning that it not all about me,” Jordan stated, are some of the life lessons which basketball helps to reinforce. “In high school I didn’t always have the best relationship with teammates, but the job had to be done.”

Smith, who, like Logan, started playing under DeBose and Pembleton at Finley at the age of 14, also drew parallels between athletics and life skills

“Coaching [both on and off the court] plays a big role, it comes down to teaching young players the right thing and how to be not only better players, but better people,” Smith said.

The event was culminated with motivational speeches on the importance of academics and life skills from numerous former players and coaches. Players spoke on the importance of giving back their communities, as well as academic excellence, and hard work and dedication, both on and off of the court.

“It’s not about finding the most talented players and talking to them about how talented they are.” Ingram said. “No let’s focus on picking up books and your academics.”

To further emphasize the academic message of the program, players were also given a selection of countless books to take home, sponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia. DeBose Sr., the former Finley Rec coach of Logan and Smith, who now works as a librarian for the Free Library of Philadelphia, helped to provide and distribute the books.

The coaches of the “Players Helping Players” clinic hoped that the program was effective in  not only linking life skills and basketball but giving the youth a positive, ambitious outlook.

“You’re not gonna win every game, just like you’re not gonna win in life all the time,” Logan said, “But you have to come back working hard and fighting and eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.”

Saturday, July 6, 2013

0 An Open Letter to Morgan Freeman

By: Marvin DeBose

Note: Regardless if Mr. Freeman ever reads this or not, this is a message which many people need to read.

Dear Mr. Freeman,

I hope that this message finds you in great health and high spirits. I think it goes without saying that you're undoubtedly one of the most talented actors that I've ever seen. Your movies are classics, and the word "iconic" is an understatement when it comes to describing some of the characters that you've played over the years.

Not only do I respect you as an actor, I also respect your perspective and your opinion as an African-American man who grew up in the era of Jim Crow segregation. I'm sure you've faced discrimination far more dehumanizing and humiliating than I may ever experience.

However, I must respectfully disagree with a statement that you made some years back in a 60 Minutes interview. In the interview, the late, talented journalist, Mike Wallace asked you a rather complex question, he asked, "How do we get rid of racism?"

You promptly stated that the best way to get rid of racism was to "Stop talking about it."

You elaborated by saying "I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman."

I found these views as dangerous in today's America because in a world where hate crimes, the explosion of the prison industrial complex, police brutality, racial profiling and discrimination in housing, jobs, education and politics still exist, America still has a rather immature view of race and the role it plays in our lives. Some of the most apparent symbols of this are seen in our language.

For example, just look at a phrase like, "Playing the race card". Such a phrase would imply that people who discuss race are merely insincere opportunists who use their race as some sort of Monopoly-esque "Community Chest" card.

But life is no game, and my mentions of racism won't allow me to "Pass Go" and Collect $200, nor will my race ever be a "Get Out of Jail Free Card" (In fact, it may be a Get Into Jail Free Card).

So, saying "Stop talking about it" basically allows those immature beliefs to be reinforced and it suggests that the best way to combat racism is to pretend it doesn't exist, which many people already do... and have been doing.

One of the few cases in which silence might work to solve a problem is if you're trying to put a baby to sleep. But America isn't baby anymore, and its citizens have been "sleeping" long enough. A more adequate analogy of America would be that of an unruly child, who needs to be taught why certain behaviors are problematic in order to correct those behaviors.

If your character from the movie Lean on Me, Joe Clark, decided to solve the problems of the dysfunctional Ease Side High by simply not talking about them, Lean on Me would have been a very different movie, to say the least.

Implying that race and racism are things which we just shouldn't talk about about gives the impression that these aren't real issues in the world. Despite the fact that race is a social construct, racism is something that is very real, especially in its consequences.

Many people are uncomfortable with discussing issues of race because they're afraid to offend people, some don't feel as if it affects them, and some don't discuss issues of race because it may challenge some of the beliefs which they, or people close to them, have internalized. 

Many people may even be uncomfortable reading this letter and it may make some people angry. But most growth comes from discomfort, so if they are uncomfortable and/or angry, it means they probably read something that was true.

But, I believe that any injustice, whether its based on race, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation or nationality, requires courageous, loving individuals to have an honest discussion about it. People need to talk more about racism, and not only that, they need to learn about its history, and act on it productively.

Poverty won't go away by silence. Not talking about cancer or AIDS doesn't ensure a cure for the many people affected by those diseases. Wars certainly do not end by people not discussing them.

Mr. Freeman, silence doesn't eliminate societal problems, it just perpetuates them, and race is no exception.

P.S. You have one of the best voices I've ever heard.


Marvin DeBose

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

2 What Happened to Reading?

By: Marvin DeBose

I have a long history when it comes to reading. As a young child, my mother would buy me countless "Read Along" books that came with cassettes that I'd play on my Playskool tape recorder.

My father also was a huge influence on my reading habits as well. He'd read newspapers daily as well as countless books on history, ranging from books on the Moors in Spain to the history of the mafia. As fate would have it, he eventually became a librarian for the Free Library of Philadelphia, one of the largest public library systems in the world.

Needless to say, books have played and still play a tremendous role in my life.

When I got to college at Edinboro University, at one point I'd make it a habit to get a new book from the library every Friday afternoon after classes. I'd read biographies, books on history, politics, sociology, business, self-improvement and many other topics as well.

Many people couldn't comprehend why I'd read even more literature than I had to, after all, we already had to read for classes. But I saw this reading as a necessity, sort of a mental exercise... as well as a waste of money to not make use of the seven-story campus library which I was already paying for out of my student fees.

For me, reading was something that I felt I had to do in order to help me to grow as a person. That's probably why it confused me when I'd hear adults, many of them being college students, say things like, "I don't read."

This is a point that I can't emphasize enough; We have to read.

I'm not talking about just reading any garbage that you can get your hands on, because just like there is garbage on TV, there is garbage in some books as well. But my point is to read things that are worth your time, things which will enlighten you, that will help you to grow, and that will help you to be extraordinary at your craft, whatever it may be. 

We also have to take the time to read things which may challenge our own preconceptions and our own perspective.

I believe that as citizens of this world, we also have a responsibility to learn about the world as well as how we fit into it and how we can improve it. So, we have to read about cultures different than ours, countries outside of our own, and people from different walks of life than us.

In a world full of so much misunderstanding and ignorance, would it really hurt to have more readers in the world?

So, READ... and don't say that you don't have time, make time. Turn off the TV, turn off the computer, party less and limit the video game time. The world needs more informed, analytic, reflective people.

As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.” 

Marvin's recommendations
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by: Alex Haley

48 Laws of Power by: Robert Greene

People's History of the United States by: Howard Zinn

Do You! by: Russell Simmons

Lies My Teacher Told Me by: James Loewen

Feel free to share any of YOUR book recommendations in the comments section

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