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Wonders of Wonders! Black Artists and Athletes Take a Stand

August 11, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

Many of us have longed and prayed (those of us who are religious) to see Black artists and athletes stand up, speak out, and be involved in the ongoing struggle for freedom. They have always been a scattered few – Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Muhammad Ali (representatives of athletes); Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, Ossie and Ruby Dee (representative of artists). They brought their voices, bodies, influence, and resources to the battle. Now, in unprecedented numbers and unprecedented ways, artists and athletes of African ancestry are answering the call.

I am not naive. There are still but a few. Most of them haven’t gone beyond words, but thank God for the few and what they have done. The hope is it’s just the beginning.

What a difference it would make in the lives of Black folks, and indeed, America and the world, if only a handful of athletes and artists, relatively speaking, would bring their considerable influence and resources to the cause of freedom, humanitarianism, justice, equality, etc.; in a word, to build a better world, prioritizing the least among the world’s citizens.

Consider these stunning developments:

July 14, 2016: I wrote an article on Mr. Jesse Williams’ remarks at the BET Awards and involvement in the Black Lives Matter Movement.

July 14, 2016: Preceding Mr. Williams was a full back page in the Daily News, showing four towering, strong, handsome, serious-looking, black suit-attired Black athletes with the caption in huge letters: “Speak Up!” and the subheading, “Melo and Friends Challenge Fellow Athletes to Make a Difference in Divided America.” The four were Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James. Inside the paper, there were more photos of the four brothers which took two pages. The article headlined, “It Has to Stop,” and the sub-heading was: “Stars Plead for Fellow Athletes to Take Action on Social Issues.”

Each of the brothers had a quote:

Carmelo Anthony: “…because we can’t ignore the current state of America, the events from the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust, and anger that plague so many of us. The system is broken. The problems are not new. The violence is not new, and the racial divide is definitely not new. The urgency to create change is at an all-time high.”

Chris Paul: “We stand here tonight accepting our roles in uniting communities, to be the change we need to see. We stand before you… in my case, as an African American man. Generations ago, legends … set a model for what athletes should stand for. We choose to follow in their footsteps.”

Dwayne Wade: “The racial profiling has to stop. The shoot-to-kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value of black and brown bodies has to stop. But, also, the retaliation has to stop… Now, as athletes, it’s on us to challenge each other to do even more than what we already do in our communities. The conversation cannot stop as our schedules get busy again. It’s won’t always be convenient. It won’t always be comfortable, but it is necessary.”

LeBron James: “We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence. We do. But, it’s not acceptable. It’s time to look into the mirror and ask ourselves what are we doing to create change.

“…I know tonight we are honoring Muhammad Ali – the GOAT [(the Greatest of All Time)]. But, to do his legacy any justice, let us use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate themselves. It’s for these issues. Speak up. Use our influence. Renounce all violence. And, most importantly, go back to our communities, invest our time, resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, and help change them. We all have to do better. Thank you.”

July 15, 2016: The Daily Challenge recorded the involvement of Alicia Keys in an article entitled, “Alicia Keys Rounds Up Star Friends for Hard-hitting New Racial Justice Ads.” The article said, “Alicia Keys’ star-studded new racial justice public service announcement has gone live online. The singer/songwriter has recruited a handful of stars like Beyonce, Rihanna, Chris Rock, and Pharrell Williams to help her call for action following a recent spate of African-American deaths at the hands of police officers.”

July 27, 2016: Wonders of wonders, Mr. Michael Jordan spoke out. The Daily Challenge published an article written by Ms. Fiona Ortiz entitled, “Michael Jordan Speaks Against Both Police Killings, Targeting of Police.”

Ms. Ortiz quoted Mr. Jordan, “‘I can no longer stay silent. As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers.”

Jordan, however, went beyond words. He donated $1 million grants to the Institute for Community-Police Relations, an organization launched in May 2016 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police; and, another $1 million to the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)’s Legal Defense Fund. Mr. Jordan is worth $1.14 billion.

Then came Kanye West. In the August 2, 2016 edition of the Daily Challenge an article headlined, “Kanye West: ‘I Want to Make a Difference With My Life,'” he was quoted as saying, “If there is anything that I can do with my time and my day, to somehow make a difference while I’m alive, I’m going to try to do it. We are numb, we’re numb to 500 kids getting killed in Chicago a year. We’re numb to the fact that it was seven police shootings in the beginning of July … we’re numb to places on the earth that we don’t live – like our life is okay but it’s okay for other people’s lives to not be okay.”

If, now, these athletes and artists want to concretize their verbiage, which, for sure, I have a few suggestions, which, for sure, would reach the organizations and individuals who have a track record of effective service in our community. I close with the words of Wayne Dyer, “The measure of a life is not what we accumulate but what we give away.”