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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

OPINION: Why Every Californian Should Support the Prescription Drug Pricing Bill

For 30 years CHCs have used those savings to provide free medications to patients experiencing homelessness, free transportation vouchers, free nutrition classes, and hire provider types (like community health workers) who are not billable within Medi-Cal. Today, there are over 1,300 health centers in California that provide care to 7.2 million people — that’s 1 in every 5 Californians and 1 in 3 Medi-Cal patients.

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Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.
Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.

By Dr. Oliver Brooks, Special to California Black Media

In 1992, the federal government enacted the 340B Drug Discount Program. It afforded community health centers (CHCs) the ability to provide pharmacy services to their patients, a service that many CHCs did not have the resources to provide otherwise.

The program protects safety-net providers, including CHCs, from escalating drug prices, allowing us to purchase drugs at a discounted rate from manufacturers and pass those discounts directly to the patient. This program is presently under threat.

That is why I support Dr. Richard Pan’s Senate Bill (SB) 939. This bill, currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Health, would prohibit discriminatory actions by drug manufacturers and administrators when providing 340B drugs to health centers and the patients they serve.

It provides important consumer protections that are necessary to protect 340B savings and ensure that the savings remain with health centers and their communities, creating greater access to health care and equity for all.

The 340B Program also allows safety-net providers the ability to accrue savings that must be reinvested directly into patient care and services. Thus, the program enables covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.

For 30 years CHCs have used those savings to provide free medications to patients experiencing homelessness, free transportation vouchers, free nutrition classes, and hire provider types (like community health workers) who are not billable within Medi-Cal.

Today, there are over 1,300 health centers in California that provide care to 7.2 million people — that’s 1 in every 5 Californians and 1 in 3 Medi-Cal patients.

Additionally, 68% of CHC patients are from BIPOC communities. CHCs are often the only source of primary and preventative care for California’s most diverse communities, including those experiencing homelessness, immigrants, and agricultural workers.

Anyone who walks into our health centers today can access a variety of services from primary care to dental to behavioral health care and a variety of wraparound services, regardless of whether they have health insurance, or an ability to pay for care. A large part of why we’re able to offer those services is thanks to savings we receive from the 340B program.

In recent years the 340B program has been under assault by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), drug manufacturers, and others within Big Pharma.

Through the expansion of the Affordable Care Act & Medi-Cal, more low-income patients can access healthcare in California, meaning more are also able to access medications, causing the 340B program to expand. Given this fact, manufacturers have put practices in place that limit patient access to 340B priced drugs while PBMs focus on trying to take 340B savings away from CHCs, and out of the local communities that need them, threatening patient access to critical medicines made available through the program.

Health centers were born out of the Civil Rights Movement to ensure that all communities, particularly communities of color, would have access to high-quality care that is provided in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. This program has allowed covered entities, including CHCs, to contract with local pharmacies so that our patients can access low-cost medications in a convenient manner. The continual acts of greed by pharmaceutical companies and PBMs threatens equity and access that CHCs were designed to create.

Community health centers around the country are sounding the alarm over Rx drugs manufacturers’ attacks on the federal 340B program. Since 2019, 21 states have passed laws addressing PBM discrimination against 340B covered entities.

It’s time for California, the policy trendsetter, to become the next state to protect the 340B program so it can operate as intended.

That is why Dr. Richard Pan’s SB 939 is so important and why I so fervently speak in favor of this legislation.

Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Pay Attention — Roe v. Wade and the Far Right’s Extreme Plans

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act. 

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Ben Jealous

Things are about to get worse for millions of vulnerable people in our country.

It looks like the far right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is getting ready to reverse Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old ruling that recognized a pregnant person’s right to have an abortion. Abortion is legal today, but pretty soon that will no longer be the case in most of the country.

A leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling expected to be released in June indicates that the Court will rule that there is no constitutional protection for abortion. Bans will go into effect in many states immediately, and others will follow soon. That will leave millions of women and LGBTQ people — and their spouses and partners — less free and less in control of their own health, lives, and families.

Like many laws and policy decisions handed down from on high, the harm will fall hardest on those with the fewest resources and political power — people of color and low-income people. It is hard to take.

How did this happen?

In the long term, it happened because opponents on the right to choose spent decades building a movement to make it happen. They invested time and money to elect like-minded politicians. They pushed Republican presidents to fill federal courts with judges who were willing, if not eager, to restrict or ban legal access to abortion. They made it a top priority when deciding whether and how to vote.

In the short term, it happened because Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. To energize the Republican Party’s ideological base, Trump promised them judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. They took the deal Trump offered. They turned out to vote. And with help from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Trump gave them kind of judges they wanted.

And now that they have the power to impose their will, Americans’ freedom will shrink and American families will suffer.

In fact, many are already suffering. Anti-choice activists have harassed and sometimes killed abortion providers. Judges have been letting state legislators pile on more and more restrictions on abortion care. As a result, in some states, the right to abortion care may exist in theory, but in reality, it is virtually nonexistent, because clinics and providers have disappeared.

There are hard times and hard decisions ahead.

There are also lessons to be learned and acted on.

One important lesson is that the Supreme Court has a big impact on our lives, even though most of us don’t think about it in the day to day. We should all pay more attention.

We should pay attention when the far right tells us what they plan to do with their political power. They have been loud and clear about their intent to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But many Americans refused to believe that the threat to Roe v. Wade was real. They just could not imagine a 21st century America in which women and doctors are treated like criminals for seeking or providing abortion care.

We no longer need to imagine that kind of scenario. We’re about to live it.

And that’s why we also have to pay attention to the consequences of our voting behavior.

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court justices and other federal judges who are put in place by the president and U.S. Senate have jobs for life. That means we are stuck with Trump’s judges for many years to come. And that means we all need to think long and hard about who we vote for — and about ever passing up the opportunity to vote.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022.

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Barbara Lee

IN MEMORIAM: Tribute to the Late Rev. Dr. Gillette O. James, Emeritus

Rev. Dr. Gillette O. James’ patience and foresight helped individuals to discern their calling to the ministry. Some became pastors because they were properly trained, tutored and mentored in the meaning of godly service to others.

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Rev. Dr. Gillette O. James, pastor emeritus, Beth Eden Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Gillette O. James, pastor emeritus, Beth Eden Baptist Church

By Rev. Dr. Martha C. Taylor

Maya Angelou’s iconic poem “When Great Trees Fall” is a reminder of the impact that a person has on the lives of others during their lifetime.

Rev. Dr. Gillette O. James, pastor emeritus, Beth Eden Baptist Church was called from labor to reward on April 20, 2022, leaving a huge void in the Bay Area after serving for 46 years as senior pastor. He was an honored senior statesman and distinguished iconic figure.

Pastor James joined the Beth Eden community in 1970 as an assistant pastor. A year later, he accepted the call to lead the congregation after the retirement of Pastor A.C. Dones. Dr. James became the 12th pastor of Beth Eden, also known as the “Mother Church” because it was the first Black Baptist church in Oakland and also a historic flagship church in Alameda County.

Dr. James was born in Dominica, West Indies. He immigrated to the United States in 1955, and later met his beautiful wife, the late Dr. Rosa V. Ferguson, in Ohio. She was a renowned educator in the Bay Area and formerly with the Progressive National Baptist Convention as noted by Dr. Vinchael Booth.

They remained married for 55 years until her death in 2017. They have one daughter, Jennifer Muhammad. Dr. James was a great soul. He was not only a pastor, he was an educator, author, community leader, justice warrior, humanitarian champion, voice for the voiceless, and a moving force for civil rights in the Bay Area.

Pastor James was a strong advocate for the role of women in church leadership positions. At one point, he was ousted from the California State Baptist Convention for his strong stance on women’s involvement in the ministry. He was later restored and continued to license and ordain numerous women in the clergy ministry.

Bay Area pastors looked up to Dr. James as a ‘pastor’s pastor’ and mentor. For him, life had endless possibilities. Dr. James had a reputation for keeping churches united. Under his leadership, Beth Eden maintained strong relationships with other churches and denominations including Taylor United Methodist, Bethlehem Lutheran and Antioch Missionary Baptist churches during the Thanksgiving season.

Dr. James was one of the rare persons who reached the summit of life because he believed in God’s word: “Thou Will be Done on Earth.” Doing God’s will on earth was about helping others along the way.

With the help of able-bodied members, Beth Eden built 54 senior housing units, purchased single-family housing and a triplex near the church for low-income families, fed the hungry, distributed groceries in the community.

Under his visionary leadership, a new family life center, with gymnasium and a daycare facility started construction and has been completed under the leadership of Dr. Dwight Webster, current pastor.

Dr. James showed a great appreciation for Black History, both from a religious as well as a cultural perspective. Beth Eden provided free office space to the first Black Adoption Agency in the Bay Area in its early days.

At one point, Beth Eden was named Oakland’s Teaching Church of the Year by the Berkeley School of Theology, formerly known as American Baptist Seminary of the West. Dr. James served on the seminary’s trustee board, was an adjunct professor at the seminary, bringing new ways of bridging theological training to the everyday lives of people.

Dr. James’ patience and foresight helped individuals to discern their calling to the ministry. Some became pastors because they were properly trained, tutored and mentored in the meaning of godly service to others. Dr. James authored “Through Toils and Snares-A Preacher Testifies.”

In this book, we get a glimpse of Dr. James’ life prior to his call to ministry at Beth Eden. Dr. James served two years in the military as Chaplain Assistant with numerous military attire photos. He was ordained in San Francisco at the Greater New St. John Missionary Baptist Church; one month later he and his wife were the key organizers of Grace Baptist Church, San Francisco. Drs. Gillette and Rosa James purchased a beautiful home on Havenscourt Boulevard, a tree-lined street in East Oakland where they loved entertaining the deacon and deaconess boards, often having them over for dinner and fellowship.

On March 13, 2017, Congresswoman Barbara Lee honored Dr. James in the House of Representatives on the occasion of his retirement as Pastor of Beth Eden. Dr. James legacy will never die. The current pastor, Rev. Dwight Webster, PhD, is a former son of Beth Eden, who was mentored by Dr. James.

The Homegoing celebration for Dr. James will be held Monday, May 16, 2022, at Beth Eden Baptist Church at 1183 Tenth St. in Oakland at 11 a.m.

COVID protocols will be observed and everyone must wear a mask.

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