2.08.2011

Black Men Stepping Up


It's what every teacher hopes for, is that the students he pours his heart and soul into turn out right, and end up being positive influences on other, younger kids. And, here and there, I've been fortunate to hear from former youth entrepreneurship program participants and about good stuff they're up to. Much has been made of the negative impact on children of the absence of father figures, particularly in the black community, so it's particularly heartening when I hear about ways my former students are being good role models, through their own life example and through mentoring relationships.

And I was heartened by the good deed Philadelphia Eagles star wide receiver Desean Jackson did, in making a beeline from his flight from Honolulu and the NFL Pro Bowl to the studios of "The View," to encourage a young fan who has been in the news for the awful treatment he received from bullies. D-Jax is known by most as a diva of sorts: angling for a big contract, posting "bulletin board" material on his Twitter page, or doing "the Nestea plunge" into the end zone. But it appears he understands that with his fame and popularity, especially among young African-American boys, there comes a responsibility to be a good role model and to encourage positive behavior when he can.

It's easy to bash pro athletes, given their riches and attitudes. But it is a grueling lifestyle: year-round physical conditioning, a punishing game and travel schedule, and so many competing demands on your time. Desean Jackson deserves some credit for realizing the importance of this small gesture on his part, to be there and sit with this young fan. And former students of mine who are doing good stuff and trying to be a positive influence on the next generation also deserve some credit, for realizing that they have the opportunity to do good as well, and for taking those opportunities and doing the most good with them.
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