A farmer plants seeds in the spring in anticipation of a harvest in the fall. You reap what you sow. In a community, individuals make children, but it takes the entire village to bring that child to maturation. Just like the farmer, if the job is done right there is a harvest in the fall. You reap what you sow.
I am talking about all of the young African American men and women who are professional athletes already and those on the verge of doing the same thing. These are seeds planted in our community, and how we work with them will determine the kind of harvest we enjoy as a community.
Whether they know it or not, it takes an entire community to protect these young men from petty jealousies, disgruntled police officers, and sometimes themselves. It takes an entire village to let them know that they are appreciated and that they are the keys to their family's future as well as the overall African American community.
The normal biographical sketch has the young man being nurtured by a small group of people, family, coaches and friends. They help him make it happen and he becomes a professional athlete. After that everyone who knows the athelete comes out to get some of their money. The athlete, in turn, begins to withdraw from the people they grew up with and the community they grew up in until everyone starts looking like an economic vampire trying to suck him or her dry.
I have always believed that current players like Doug Christie, Jason Terry, Jamall Crawford, and Corey Dillon; the ones just coming like Nate Robinson, Martel Webster and Marvin Williams, Trey Simmons, Will Conroy; and ones coming in next year such as Aaron Brooks and Brandon Roy all want to do something to make their community better.
If any one of them can step up and do something comparable to what former Franklin High and Kansas City Chief all-pro James Hasty did, by paying for a new football field and track at Rainier Beach High, it enriches everyone's life.
Along with the local guys, we have a ton of other African American athletes from other places that call Seattle home. I see the older athletes like Bill Russell, Lenny Wilkins, Warren Moon and Shawn Kemp on television and on the street. Many of the current stars on the Sonics, Storm, Seahawks and Mariners also will call Seattle home when they retire. Even those who have left like Gary Payton will always see Seattle as a second home.
What this means is that we have a lot of people with resources that spend more time avoiding the Black community than they do working with it. But that's not their fault. It's ours. They all have to make contributions because they need the tax write offs, so the money will go somewhere.
They have what they want and need for themselves and their families and if we want them to do more for the community they are from or have adopted, we need to get creative enough to figure out a way for them to do it.
I believe that we need to form one athletic foundation to serve the African American community, and each of these athletes can contribute to that. This foundation has a board made up of individuals trusted by both the community members and the athletes. The board then receives request from various African American groups or individuals and it decides where the money goes.
This would eliminate a lot of individual requests to the athlete's personal foundations and allow them to concentrate on their sport and the issues they're really concerned about. If all of the African American athletes put $50,000 or more in a tax deductible 5013c community endowment fund, we would have several million dollars available to make Seattle one of the premier Black communities in the nation.
This eliminates a lot of pressure on them and allows them to walk among us without being concerned with a lot of negative flak about what they are doing or not doing. It allows people in the community to steer the fund in the directions it should go, and it gives the athlete's family members and friends a chance to get to know the community and the problems it faces.
All of these young men and young women are community assets that we must protect and nurture. They have the resources to help transform our community, if we take the necessary steps. They are not supposed to know what we need, nor should they be in a position where they must constantly choose one group over another.
One foundation with a board can do the job, and we can treat these athletes with love and respect rather than like someone we are trying to take advantage of. If they want to do more and be like Magic Johnson, who transformed inner city LA, so be it.
Opportunity is knocking and all of those Huskies playing professional football or basketball are going to increase with Tyrone Willingham and Lorenzo Romar recruiting top-notch athletes from all over the nation.
Their success and our success, as a community, should run hand in hand if we create a structure to make that happen. Every Black community in the nation is trying to figure this out. Let's make Seattle, in the heart of Martin Luther King County, the first place in the nation to do this. Let's stop engaging this crazy process where so many people have their hands out, which often leads to the wrong people receiving resources or no one getting anything.
People of other races are hesitant to contribute to groups in the Black community when obviously wealthy people in their community are not. Our future will be determined by how effective we are in planting seeds of trust among these athletes and nurturing them into a harvest of love. You reap what you sow.
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