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United Travel Credits Giving HBCU Golf Programs Wings, Expanding Range of Traditionally Underfunded Teams

NNPA NEWSWIRE — On Wednesday, some 23 years later, and on her 41st birthday, no less, Levister was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open. Christian Latham, who is working on his master’s degree in architecture, and seniors Rondarius Walters and Taylor Harvey, a member of the women’s team, would play with Phil Griffith, who is a vice president of operations for United Airlines’ Houston hub, and PGA TOUR pros Stewart Cink and Matthew NeSmith.

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Mesha Levister (second from left) was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.
Mesha Levister (second from left) was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.

By Helen Ross, PGA Tour, Special to NNPA Newswire

James Levister thought it would be a phase.

Sure, he was an avid golfer. A 4 handicap at his best, in fact.

But when he started his 3-year-old daughter, Mesha, playing golf, he figured she would eventually get tired of the game.

He was wrong, though. His daughter loved playing with her dad on weekends — she finally beat him when she was 16 and never lost again — and she thrived on the challenge of the game.

“It was our thing,” Mesha said. “I liked that it was hard, and I continued to play because it was hard. But for me, when I was small, it was about being with him and doing something different.”

She played four years of varsity golf and basketball at her Florida high school, got scholarship offers in both sports, and wanted to turn pro. Eventually, she had to choose between the two.

“I told my dad I would rather play golf because there are fewer people that look like me playing golf,” said Levister, who is African American. “I wanted to be a trendsetter…I felt like I had something to give in the game. I didn’t realize what it was back then as a little 17-year-old.”

On Wednesday, some 23 years later, and on her 41st birthday, no less, Levister was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.

Christian Latham, who is working on his master’s degree in architecture, and seniors Rondarius Walters and Taylor Harvey, a member of the women’s team, would play with Phil Griffith, who is a vice president of operations for United Airlines’ Houston hub, and PGA TOUR pros Stewart Cink and Matthew NeSmith.

“I hope that they get an out-of-this-world experience that they may not have ever gotten — ever,” Levister said. “Or that it opens up their eyes to the maximum potential and drives them to be whatever they want to be.”

The pairing with Griffith is no accident. United Airlines, in partnership with the PGA TOUR, has earmarked more than $500,000 in grants to 55 golf teams at HBCUs like Prairie View.

Each school gets $10,000 in travel credits to bolster travel and recruiting budgets and potentially help more than 250 student-athletes compete in places that may have been out of reach.

United and the TOUR recently announced a multi-year extension of their official marketing relationship, extending the annual commitment to HBCUs through 2025.

Griffith also attended a clinic earlier this week in which golfers from another Houston-area HBCU, Texas Southern, worked with youngsters from the First Tee. He’s excited about the impact the grants are having.

“I’m very impressed with these kids and when I look at where I was back then, if you don’t know that something exists, yeah, it’s kind of hard for you to aspire for,” Griffith said. “And a lot of the things that these kids are doing today, I had no aspirations for because I just didn’t know.

“I think as we continue this program,” he added, “just opening their eyes and showing them valuable and effective ways of getting there, it’s going to be a lot of fun over the years. That’s what I’m hoping.”

All in it together

Levister coaches the men’s and women’s teams at Prairie View A&M, which is the second-oldest public university in Texas.

She’s also done double duty at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), as well as at Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri.

“It’s interesting to see the dynamic and be able to create a culture here of togetherness and make sure that everybody roots for everybody because we’re all one team,” Levister said.

Forging something of a non-traditional path is second nature to Levister. When the women’s team at her college in Florida disbanded, she was recruited by NCCU to play on its men’s team.

She played No.1 and was the team’s most valuable player as a freshman, also earning Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Rookie of the Year honors.

After 9/11, Levister left school and went home to Wash., D.C. She was the first African American to win the 2004 Virginia Women’s Amateur and was named the state’s female golfer of the year. She turned pro in 2006 and joined the Symetra Tour in 2010.

Life on the road could be lonely, though, particularly for a young woman who was often the only African American entered in an event.

“I’m still a golfer, regardless,” Levister said firmly. And she can’t shake the memory of being pulled over by a policeman in New York.

“The cop came over and asked the other tour player that was in the car, who was a white female, instead of asking the normal stuff, he asked the young lady that was in the passenger seat, ‘Are you OK?’” Levister said.

“So, for me that was a little bit of a traumatic experience…But he let me go. So, he really pulled me over just to check on the person in the car.”

After Levister’s father died in 2014, she decided to quit the tour.

She still competed, winning the 2015 EP Pro Women’s Championship, but began to focus on teaching. She joined the staff at NCCU in 2020 and helped start the women’s program before heading to Prairie View A&M.

She’s only been there about a month, but she already feels accepted by her players, who share her goal of returning the Panthers to dominance in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

And she wants to make it easier for others to follow her path.

“I am definitely all about how I take on life now,” Levister said. “I just want to be a good person, do the right thing and break glass ceilings for the next people behind me so they don’t have it as hard as I did.”

Keeping the program alive

When Prairie View A&M lost its golf coach last fall, Latham had just graduated magna cum laude, finishing his architecture degree in three years, and started working on his master’s.

But the team needed a coach, and Latham stepped up in a big way. “He really held the fort down last year for both of the teams,” Levister said.

Like Levister, Latham was a multi-sport athlete who started playing golf because of his dad. But his favorite sport was baseball — his grandfather Cliff Johnson played 20 years in the major leagues, including two World Series with the New York Yankees.

By the time Latham got to high school, though, he had become disillusioned with baseball. He endured racist taunts, many times from the adults and coaches who flat-out lied to him.

“I lost my passion for baseball,” he said. “I didn’t even want to play anymore. So that’s what really got me stuck into golf because it’s like at the end of the day, no one can else say anything about me as long as I’m shooting a score I need to shoot.

“So that’s how I really got into it. And I just focus on golf only now. That’s what brought me.”

The summer before he entered high school in Katy, Texas, a Houston suburb, Latham spent every day at the golf course.

He shot 111 in his first tournament, but by the end of the summer, he broke 80 for the first time.

With continued improvement, he began to think about playing in college and verbally committed to Prairie View A&M after his sophomore year.

In addition to studying for his master’s, where he’s designing a practice facility for the golf team as a class project, and hitting balls on the range, Latham is getting hands-on experience by working at an architecture firm several days a week.

He also has a 14-month-old son named Kai — who is full of “joy and happiness,” Latham said — half the week.

“He’s like my little twin,” Latham said. “So now I got him a plastic set of golf clubs and seeing him wanting to play with that is pretty cool.”

Just because he’s working on his master’s degree doesn’t mean Latham is giving up on his dream to play golf professionally, though.

He’s already played in one APGA event and hopes to play well enough this year to finish in the top five of its collegiate rankings, which would give him scholarship access to the tour’s events through the remainder of the 2023 season.

“I’m not going to just stop that goal and stop that dream,” he said.

“I’m going to still work hard this semester to try to get to that level or continue to just add on to where I should be.”

Giving players wings

With the travel credits provided by United, schools like Prairie View A&M will be able to compete in higher profile events that might otherwise seem out of reach — quite literally.

Levister, who once rode 11 hours from Durham, N.C. to Port St. Lucie, Florida, for a college tournament, has already started putting those credits to work.

“Even in the short time that I’ve been here, it’s saved us a tremendous amount of time and money just to be able to have access to go over to Houston Airport and to fly,” she said.

“Just to reduce costs of travel helps tremendously because now we can use those funds to give them a better experience as a student-athlete and a college golfer.”

Latham remembers a 15-hour bus ride from Houston to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where the Panthers played in — and won — the 2021 PGA Works Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

With two travel days each way and the tournament itself, the Black Panthers were gone nine days.

That’s why on Wednesday Latham planned to thank Griffith for United’s support. That United and organizations like the PGA TOUR are seeing value in HBCU golf has been a big help.

“I want to say it makes us feel more comfortable when we’re not having to travel,” Latham said, “cramped up for 14 hours, 16 hours, when we could just make a two-hour plane ride. And it makes an impact on the team.”

“I mean, we’ve had times to where people didn’t even have enough seats on the bus,” he continued, “and we’re just kind of all locked up or having to make multiple trips to get somewhere because we don’t have enough room to bring everybody.”

“So, it means a lot. Gives us the opportunity to try to feel more like a sports program because we see other sports programs get to travel like that. And we never necessarily got to.”

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IN MEMORIAM International Soccer Icon Pelé Dies at 82

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Sometimes called “Pérola Negra” (“Black Pearl”), Pelé became a Brazilian national hero. According to Britannica, he combined kicking power and accuracy with a remarkable ability to anticipate other players’ moves. 

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Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé became soccer’s first superstar.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé became soccer’s first superstar.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Pelé, the international star who was instrumental in three World Cup championships with Brazil across three decades and who energized U.S. soccer with the New York Cosmos in the 1970s, has died.

The 82-year-old legend had been hospitalized since November, and his doctors reported that Pelé’s cancer had advanced, requiring care related to renal and cardiac dysfunction.

He has been receiving regular treatment since doctors removed a tumor from his colon in 2021.

“Father. My strength is yours,” the international star’s son, Edinho, posted on social media.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé became soccer’s first superstar.

He led the Brazilian national teams to World Cup glory in 1958, 1962, and 1970.

In 1956, he joined the Santos Football Club, where he played inside left forward, winning nine São Paulo league championships and, in 1962 and 1963, the Libertadores Cup and the Intercontinental Club Cup.

Sometimes called “Pérola Negra” (“Black Pearl”), Pelé became a Brazilian national hero. According to Britannica, he combined kicking power and accuracy with a remarkable ability to anticipate other players’ moves.

“After the 1958 World Cup, Pelé was declared a national treasure by the Brazilian government to ward off large offers from European clubs and ensure that he would remain in Brazil,” Britannica researchers wrote.

On Nov. 19, 1969, in his 909th first-class match, he scored his 1,000th goal.

Pelé made his international debut in 1957 at age 16 and played his first game in the World Cup finals in Sweden the following year.

The Brazilian manager was initially hesitant to play his young star. But, according to Britannica, when Pelé finally reached the field, he had an immediate impact, rattling the post with one shot and collecting an assist.

He had a hat trick in the semifinal against France and two goals in the championship game, where Brazil defeated Sweden 5–2. At the 1962 World Cup finals, Pelé tore a thigh muscle in the second match and had to sit out the remainder of the tournament.

Nonetheless, Brazil went on to claim its second World Cup title.

Researchers said rough play and injuries turned the 1966 World Cup into a disaster for Brazil and Pelé, as the team went out in the first round, and he contemplated retiring from World Cup play.

Returning in 1970 for one more World Cup tournament, he teamed with young stars Jairzinho and Rivelino to claim Brazil’s third title and permanent ownership of the Jules Rimet Trophy. Pelé finished his World Cup career, scoring 12 goals in 14 games.

Pelé’s electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals made him a worldwide star.

His team Santos toured internationally to take full advantage of his popularity. For example, in 1967, he and his team traveled to Nigeria, where a 48-hour cease-fire in that nation’s civil war was called to allow all to watch the great player.

Pelé announced his retirement in 1974 but, in 1975, agreed to a three-year $7 million contract with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League and to promote the game in the United States. He retired after leading the Cosmos to the league championship in 1977.

Pelé was the recipient of the International Peace Award in 1978. In 1980 he was named Athlete of the Century by the French sports publication L’Equipe, and he received the same honor in 1999 from the International Olympic Committee. In 2014 the Pelé Museum opened in Santos, Brazil.

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COMMENTARY: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Avoid Burnout with These Simple Tips

THE AFRO — Although it cannot be medically diagnosed, burnout can lead people to lose their sense of self and feel as if they are not accomplishing enough. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Psychological Association found that the risk of burnout has increased for workers due to extra stress, increased household demands and longer working hours. 
The post COMMENTARY: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Avoid Burnout with These Simple Tips first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Megan Sayles | AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

We’ve all heard the age-old saying that “hard work pays off.”  But, sometimes, working too hard can do more harm than good.

“Burnout” is a form of work-related stress in which an individual experiences physical, emotional or mental exhaustion caused by their job’s demands. It can also make workers feel distanced from their jobs and engender negative feelings about them, according to the World Health Organization.

Although it cannot be medically diagnosed, burnout can lead people to lose their sense of self and feel as if they are not accomplishing enough. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Psychological Association found that the risk of burnout has increased for workers due to extra stress, increased household demands and longer working hours.

This makes it even more important for people to know the signs of burnout and the strategies to combat it.

Natasha Charles is the founder and CEO of Intuitive Coaching with Natasha Charles, a comprehensive life coaching and consulting firm. She created the business after gaining 20 years in senior administration roles.

Charles was motivated to open the firm in 2018 out of a desire to create a business focused on inspiring continuous improvement. There, she works with individuals and executives to create lives that they love and offers them personalized solutions to address critical work and business challenges.

“It’s really about thinking about you, the person, and all that you are,” Charles said. “People tend to be very focused on one aspect of their life, and a lot of times, it’s about their career, so it’s really about making space for all of your goals and all of your dreams.”

When someone experiences burnout, Charles said they could be actively doing their job while simultaneously worrying about their other responsibilities and priorities, whether personal or work-related. She also stressed that burnout can be experienced no matter what profession you are in and what you are being paid.

Aside from the physical and mental impacts of stress, burnout can impact finances if it causes an employee to take extended periods of time off or miss work, according to Charles. It can also reduce their productivity.

In the beginning of 2022, the term “quiet quitting” emerged, and for some, it’s being used as a method to avoid burnout. It involves individuals meeting the minimum requirements of their job descriptions, investing no extra time or effort than what is mandatory.

For Charles, quiet quitting is a signal that a person is not fulfilled by their job and may need to think about changing workplaces or careers.

“I get that people are not always able to up and quit, and it can take time to find what that next role is,” Charles said. “I would come from a space of encouraging the person to start thinking about what that is. What is it that you ultimately desire to be doing in your life and seeing your work?”

One of the most important steps in reducing and preventing burnout is educating yourself about the syndrome, so you can be aware of the warning signs, according to Charles. She also said it was crucial for employers to talk to their employees about it.

Awareness can help prevent the shame and guilt that comes with burnout and allow people to give themselves grace.

After a person has weighed whether they are experiencing burnout or not, they should think about how they want to confront it. This could include engaging in self-care, asking for extra support at work or home, and creating stronger boundaries between their personal and professional lives.

When burnout is impacting your performance, it’s time to consider making a career change, Charles said.

To ensure your work life does not invade your personal life, Charles said people need to assess the goals they have for all areas of their life. Once you’ve set goals, it’s easier to devise a plan and set the necessary boundaries to achieve them.

Charles also said it’s important to carve out time for yourself where you’re not constantly checking your phone or email for work reasons.

“There is life beyond your work. There is an entire world out there to be discovered,” Charles said. “There’s a world within us to be discovered as well, and I encourage everyone to invest in discovering those pieces.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

The post COMMENTARY: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Avoid Burnout with These Simple Tips first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Tory Lanez Found Guilty in Meg Thee Stallion Shooting 

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The case fired up social media and highlighted the misogyny that still reigns in hip hop. Many on Twitter routinely attacked Megan, accusing her of lying among other vicious vitriolic comments.
The post Tory Lanez Found Guilty in Meg Thee Stallion Shooting  first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Canadian rapper Tory Lanez faces more than 20 years in prison and deportation after a jury in Los Angeles found him guilty in the 2020 shooting of hip hop star Megan Thee Stallion.

Lane, 30, was found guilty of three felony counts, including assault with an unregistered semiautomatic weapon, carrying a loaded gun, and discharging a firearm in a vehicle with gross negligence.

The case fired up social media and highlighted the misogyny that still reigns in hip hop. Many on Twitter routinely attacked Megan, accusing her of lying among other vicious vitriolic comments.

The 27-year-old Megan, whose real name is Megan Pete, testified that Lanez offered her hush money and didn’t care about her injuries and pain suffered because he shot her.

Lanez, who declined to testify, claimed there was another shooter, Pete’s friend who was also arguing with the hit maker as they drove home from a party.

“[Lanez] told me to dance,” Pete told the jury, adding that he also cursed at her following the shooting.

Sentencing for Lanez is scheduled for Jan. 27.

“You showed incredible courage and vulnerability with your testimony despite repeated and grotesque attacks that you did not deserve,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said, referring to Pete.

“You faced unjust and despicable scrutiny that no woman should ever face, and you have been an inspiration to others across LA County and the nation.”

The post Tory Lanez Found Guilty in Meg Thee Stallion Shooting  first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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