February is a special month for myself and many others across the globe.
No, it hasn’t absolutely nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. I’m a single college graduate, so this may come off as bitterness, but that day truthfully is a sham outside of all the candy going on sale the next day.
February has a whole new meaning for me personally this year. Of course, the most important bullet point here is that it’s Black History Month. Black history truly needs more than one month because of how impactful and how much cultural influence it’s had over society as a whole, especially in sports and entertainment.
The mention of entertainment is important too, because I know you’re like me and refuse to wait yet another week to see Chadwick Boseman star in Marvel’s new Black Panther film set to hit theaters on Friday, Feb. 16.
Outside the rhelm of the fictional Wakanda however, this month hits home figuratively and literally.
As many of you know, my grandfather passed away at the age of 78 this past November and left a legacy as a successful black coach, principal, driving instructor, father, grandfather, husband and simply man in America that I plan to keep alive into my own future. He’s one of the names being honored by the LaPorte County NAACP chapter next Saturday night and that makes me even more prideful to be a part of a black family.
It’s such a powerful thing.
Most of society has a sense of it and unfortunately, it’s partly why we continue to go backwards in society when progress is being made.
When I arrived back at the office on Friday, I had a magazine waiting on my desk for me. It was a special edition of ESPN The Magazine titled, “State of the Black Athlete”. My eyes lit up like Ralphie when he saw a Red Ryder BB gun for the first time in A Christmas Story. I couldn’t wait to read it. My next move was to figure out who sent me this, even though I had a pretty good idea who did.
It was one of my grandfather’s best friends: Ron.
Ron was one of the non-family members that spoke at my grandfather’s memorial and he’s a person I have great respect for. One of the topics he spoke on during his speech was a car ride that he, my grandfather, former Michigan City mayor Chuck Oberlie and myself went on. We were heading to an Indianapolis Colts game and the topic of Colin Kaepernick arose in the conversation.
Ron and I had a good discussion. As a veteran in the military, Ron had some opinions about Kaepernick. I also had my opinions on Kaepernick. The thing that made our conversation much less hostile than many conversations about the former NFL quarterback is that both of us were able to put aside any pride, stubborness and belief in how we feel about the topic.
We listened to each other. We learned about each other more than we already knew. I value the memories of that car ride not just because it would be the last game I attended with my grandfather, but because Ron is an intelligent man and he let me say what I had to say because he knew how prideful I was about the subject and how much I cared about Kaepernick sacrificing money, sponsorships and his love of football for the greater good of humanity. He listened to the silly millennial for a bit.
And seeing that from him, I respected him and let him explain how he feels about the subject. Some things we agreed on. Some we didn’t. The point is, I set aside my own personal pride as a (half-)black man standing up for a targeted black man and listened to a different angle. There’s two sides to every coin, folks. Your opinion isn’t the only one that matters.
In that magazine Ron sent, there was a quote captured in a piece by Lonnae O’Neal, Marc J. Spears and Martenzie Johnson from Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers on his team’s ability to talk about matters in society. Myers, a white man from California, helps run a team that has 13 black players on their listed 15-man roster with the other two players being from Israel and Georgia with a white head coach in former Bulls playoff hero Steve Kerr.
“Who am I to tell them what to feel, or how to think? All I would say and what we tell our guys is, educate yourself, try to speak intelligently on something. Research it, try to look at both sides. Then, whatever you’ve gotta say, say it.”
There’s a reason why the Warriors are one of the most successful teams in sports and the NBA is seen as one of the most progressive leagues in athletics. Everyone has a seat at the table.
That’s how the world should be whether it’s a fictional African society on the silver screen or the place we live in today.