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Op-Ed

The Black Athlete: A Long Time Sports Addiction

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Omar Tyree

By Omar Tyree
NNPA Columnist

 

For the seventh year in a row, I drove out to the North Carolina Western Regional Basketball Championships to watch the best high school girls and boys teams square off for a trip to the North Carolina State Championships next weekend at Chapel Hill. Normally, I take one or both of my sons with me to watch, but often I attend the games alone when my sons are uninterested. Each time I get the same curious question from other parents. “So, which kid out there is yours?”

Do I have to have a son or a daughter in the games to watch great high school competitions?

I’ve been watching competitive sports games at every level since my own years of high school back in the 1980s. In fact, I watched competitive games without my immediate family or friends involved, dating all the way back to my football days with the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia at age 9. I would walk or ride my bike to the surrounding neighborhood playgrounds of Philadelphia just watch great teams get it on, and I still do so today, nearly forty years later, with my car now.

Is there something wrong with that? Am I a sports addict just for supporting hard-working young athletes, who all appreciate having someone in the stands to cheer them on? I’d rather do that than sit around the house drinking beers and watching old movies and frivolous reality shows on television. That’s typically what happens when folks say, “I have other things to do.” They end up doing a bunch of nothing for hours.

There have been times where I actually forced my two sons to accompany me to ball games, cultural and educational events rather than have them sitting around playing video games or watching cartoons all day. And each time, they became inspired by other kids and adults who they never knew or even thought of before, including inspiration from girls and women.

I must admit, I continue to feel a bit irked by parents and students, who show up at the huge coliseums in Greensboro, Winston Salem and Raleigh only to watch their own kids or schools compete before leaving, particularly when the girl’s games are up. These gyms literally go from having three-thousand wild, crazy and cheering fans to three hundred in a matter of minutes after a great exodus toward the exits.

I wish we could somehow make it mandatory for folks to watch at least two games, while alternating the boys and girls competitions, to give these hard-working and talented girls teams the same awesome crowd feeling that the guys have. Let’s lock these parents in, tournament style, so they can all learn to care a bit more about the efforts, dedication and performances of other kids, teams, schools, coaches and the hopes of other people, including girls.

Heck, I even watch the colorfully outfitted cheerleaders, building their triple-decker pyramids with acrobatic kicks, twists, drops and catches, accompanied by crowd-pleasing quadruple back flips from the young, gymnastic tumblers on the team. You think these cheerleaders don’t realize that three-thousand people are watching them? They don’t rush out to center court during time-outs and halftime for nothing. They want the same feelings of anxiety, nervousness and anticipation to perform a great feet as the ballers. These cheerleaders have been practicing all week long for a big performance just like the players.

You can call me a fanatic if you want, but at the end of day, athletes and cheerleaders of every sport and every age are humans, who have put in an awful lot of time and work to master the minor and major details of athletic execution for us to all marvel, cheer and be inspired by in their planned and random actions and reaction in crucial games of success and failure.

Sports are the stuff of real life, like driving a car to work, helping your kids with math, or cooking a tasty meal for visiting relatives at a family get-together. So, what’s so wrong with going out to show your support at a youth sports in the evenings or on the weekends, when your really don’t have anything “better” to do? I’ll take my sports addiction of supporting young, athletic humans over drinking, smoking, gambling, eating, voyeurism, video games or social media any day of the week.

And yes, I still manage to see my kids perform in their sports events, get my work done, spend time with friends and family, read, write, think, and everything else that normal adults do. We simply miscalculate how many hours we have in a full day. So why not be inspired by sports during your free time? It’s an addiction of supporting others.

 

Omar Tyree is a New York Times bestselling author, an NAACP Image Award winner for Outstanding Fiction, and a professional journalist, who has published 27 books, including co-authoring Mayor For Life; The Incredible Story of Marion Barry Jr. View more of his career and work @ www.OmarTyree.com.

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Activism

Conversations About Cancer Screening Should Be Priority This Holiday Season – It Can Save Your Life

Now is the time to start having conversations about cancer screening and having them often. Be an example for your friends and family. It’s OK to say, ‘Hey, as your buddy, I want us to be together 20 years from now. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. That includes going to the doctor and getting screened for cancer.’ It may be a tough conversation to have, but you may be the one that could make a lifesaving difference.

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David Ford, is a two-time cancer survivor.
David Ford, is a two-time cancer survivor.

By David Ford

The holidays are a time to gather with friends and family for food, fun, and great conversations. But imagine those conversations not going as planned and the joy of being with your loved ones has been overshadowed by someone sharing that they have cancer.

You may not have been ready to have that discussion, yet it was happening. And you may not be prepared to talk about screenings with your loved ones, but it’s necessary. As someone who has had two different cancers in my life, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting screened.

It was 2015 when I first heard those earth-shattering words, “it’s cancer.” I thought back to a conversation with my doctor just a few months earlier when they recommended a routine colonoscopy screening.

Instead of getting it done right away, I kept putting it off. My life was busy. I had a family and was in the midst of a successful career. It just wasn’t a priority for me, and all the while, I was unknowingly putting myself at risk. Then flash-forward to a critical moment with my doctor. It was too late; surgery was needed to treat my cancer.

If I’d gotten my colonoscopy, a screening for colon cancer, when it was recommended, it’s possible that I could’ve avoided surgery, treatment, and the emotional toll I put on my family.

Even though the treatments saved me, I had to learn the hard way not to take unnecessary risks with my life. So, three years later, when my doctor recommended screening for prostate cancer, I did not wait. I completed the screening immediately, and we were able to find and treat my second cancer at an early stage. Now, I am once again cancer-free and sharing my story to help others understand why they should be getting screened.

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, yet the discussion of cancer screening remains taboo in our community.

Now is the time to start having conversations about cancer screening and having them often. Be an example for your friends and family. It’s OK to say, ‘Hey, as your buddy, I want us to be together 20 years from now. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. That includes going to the doctor and getting screened for cancer.’ It may be a tough conversation to have, but you may be the one that could make a lifesaving difference.

Cancer wasn’t something I was prepared to factor into my life. But through my experience, I learned some tough lessons. It is important to listen to my doctor. I need to take the time to share with others, so they don’t make the same mistake. It’s necessary to go to the doctor on a timely basis. It’s OK to have scary conversations about health with loved ones. And if a doctor recommends cancer screening, get screened.

Through my work with the American Cancer Society, I have seen that cancer doesn’t discriminate. It’s not just older people getting cancer; anyone can be at risk. This is the reason why it is so important for you to talk to a doctor about the type of health care and screening you may need.

You can’t play around with your life. It’s more than just a cancer screening, it’s a way to help ensure that we will be around for our families. The longer we are around, the more opportunities we have to live our dreams and to see our loved ones achieve their goals.

As we prepare to gather for the holidays, whether it’s a large gathering or with immediate family, I encourage you to have a conversation with your loved ones about regular cancer screening.

I hope that you take the steps yourself to schedule an appointment to get screened. If you need cancer screening recommendations, resources, as well as tips to start the conversation visit cancer.org/get-screened. A small discussion can make a lifesaving difference, so please don’t wait.

David Ford, is a two-time cancer survivor, Senior Government Relations Manager at Southern California Edison, and member of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Board of Directors.

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Activism

Nonprofit Launches Effort to Support Immigrants Seeking Early Childhood Education Careers

Upward Scholars is introducing an academic and career support initiative called TeacherUp, which will help residents enroll in college, connect with employers and receive wraparound support, like stipends. 

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The County of San Mateo, California logo. (San Mateo County via Bay City News)
TeacherUp will bring real solutions to early educators who can benefit from our track record of delivering academic and career support for adult immigrants from low-income households.

By Olivia Wynkoop | Bay City News Foundation

A San Mateo County-based nonprofit announced on Nov. 17 that it is launching a program to support immigrants seeking careers in early childhood education.

Upward Scholars is introducing an academic and career support initiative called TeacherUp, which will help residents enroll in college, connect with employers and receive wraparound support, like stipends.

The program builds on the 2018 workforce development pilot called the Teacher Pipeline Project, developed by the organization Community Equity Collaborative to address the shortage of early childhood educators across the Bay Area’s peninsula. It was backed by local community colleges, schools, nonprofits and policymakers.

The project also successfully prompted state legislation to increase awareness on the challenges and financial barriers residents face when seeking careers in early childhood education, which disproportionately affect women and people of color.

Executive director at Community Equity Collaborative Dayna Chung said now is the time to invest toward an equitable learning workforce amidst the worsening educator shortage.

“Early childhood educators are an essential ingredient in the human infrastructure that supports healthy families and strong, local economies,” Chung said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 revealed and exacerbated systemic inequities, including poverty wages that drive the early educator shortage and force roughly 1 in 3 parents to take time off or leave their jobs.”

TeacherUp plans to also provide students with tutoring, scholarships, laptops, food vouchers, transportation assistance and other services from Upward Scholars’ other programs, like NannyUp.

“With its roots in the Teacher Pipeline Project and its future with our organization, TeacherUp will bring real solutions to early educators who can benefit from our track record of delivering academic and career support for adult immigrants from low-income households,” said Upward Scholars Executive Director Linda Prieto.

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Advice

From the 1800s to Today: Empowering Veteran Business Owners

Amid the success of the family business, the McKindras never lost sight of the support they had been given—and the importance of passing it on to others in their community and society. Generations of McKindras have dedicated their lives to the military, including his grandfather, father, and brother (pictured right), and subsequently to their communities when they returned home.

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Three generations of McKindras pictured from left to right: Alex Jr. (West Point, Air Force), Q.R. McKindra (Alex Jr.’s grandfather, WWII veteran), Alex Sr. (career Army officer), and Marcus (Alex Jr.’s younger brother, Air Force Academy) (Courtesy photo)
Three generations of McKindras pictured from left to right: Alex Jr. (West Point, Air Force), Q.R. McKindra (Alex Jr.’s grandfather, WWII veteran), Alex Sr. (career Army officer), and Marcus (Alex Jr.’s younger brother, Air Force Academy) (Courtesy photo)

From JPMorgan Chase

From his years of service in the military to his current work helping former soldiers build their own businesses through JPMorgan Chase’s veteran initiatives, Alex McKindra Jr. is a veteran success story.

Moreover, as we celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, Alex’s story is a uniquely American one that veterans and members of the military community across the country can relate to. But, as he is the first to admit, his success story, like many, has a long history tracing back through generations of his family in the small town of Union Chapel, Arkansas.

Becoming a Cornerstone of the Community

In the late 1800s, Alex’s great-great grandfather, Reuben Frank McKindra, moved his family to Union Chapel, a town originally settled by freed Black slaves.

Working on their family farm, the McKindras made a name for themselves by demonstrating their resourcefulness and aptitude for hard work. Namely, the family utilized mentorship programs, as well as public and private funding, to not only start but grow their family farm.

Amid the success of the family business, the McKindras never lost sight of the support they had been given—and the importance of passing it on to others in their community and society. Generations of McKindras have dedicated their lives to the military, including his grandfather, father, and brother (pictured right), and subsequently to their communities when they returned home.

“I would not be in the position I am today if not for the opportunities that mentorship provided,” says McKindra. “The farm my family was able to start, through the support and mentorship of others, has helped to educate and put clothes on every generation of my family since the 1880s.”

Honoring a Legacy

McKindra chose to honor his roots by joining the service himself. He graduated from West Point in 1993 and then completed a tour of duty serving across the U.S. as Captain in the United States Air Force. He worked as a procurement officer, including on the B-2 Bomber Program, which allowed him to travel across the country, learning from and serving others. During that time, he also spent his nights and weeks pursuing an MBA from the University of Southern California.

Armed with the life experience and knowledge he gained from the service—and a freshly-minted MBA and banking internship under his belt— McKindra dove into the world of corporate finance. Quickly building a reputation for his intelligence, reliability and kindness, he rose through the ranks. Today, he works as a Managing Director for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking in San Francisco

Paying It Forward

Alex didn’t want the chapter in his family’s story to end with commercial success.  He wanted to help those who—like his great-great-grandfather Reuben—had risked their lives for the country and were now seeking to put down roots as civilians. With that in mind, he decided to co-lead JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking’s veteran initiatives alongside Army veteran, Terry Hill. Alex, Terry and their team across the firm share a passion for mentorship and community building. Through various programming, they tap into their military backgrounds to connect with aspiring and current military-connected entrepreneurs to help them access the resources they need to be successful over the long-term.

For example, McKindra worked with JPMorgan Chase to partner with Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit that supports the ventures of veterans and military spouses, to build programs to help veteran business owners.

Today, JPMorgan Chase is powering Bunker Labs’ CEOcircle, a monthly peer accountability group for growth-stage companies looking to scale. Through this program, veteran business owners and their families gain access to the guidance and resources they need to succeed, including education, networking, and one-on-one financial coaching. This year, CEOcircle welcomed 71 new individuals to the program including Office Libations from Alameda.

The program uplifts businesses that will support military families for generations to come — businesses like the McKindra farm.

“If I’ve learned one thing from my family’s history, it’s that hard work and preparation aren’t always enough. Sometimes we need to create our own opportunities as well,” Alex says. “That is what we are hoping to do with CEOcircle, to create the opportunities and provide the support veteran entrepreneurs need to help them overcome systemic obstacles to business and professional growth.”

Generational Impact

Less than an hour north of Little Rock, the McKindra’s family farm still stands in Union Chapel. Today, the manicured green fields and trees remain a testament to the effort, determination, and community it takes to create a successful business.

“If my great-great-grandfather were here today, I would want him to know that what he built didn’t just support our family, it also instilled the values in us that would seed the acceleration and growth of hundreds of other veteran-owned businesses in the future,” McKindra says. “I know he’d be proud of that.”

If you are a veteran or know someone who is and want to learn more about how JPMorgan Chase support veterans whether through career advancement or small business support or anything in between, please visit: https://www.jpmorganchase.com/impact/people/military-and-vets

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