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NEVER ASK "WHY"

HOW ED GARVEY AND THE NFLPA

CHANGED THE PRO SPORTS LANDSCAPE

 

(I am honored to have been interviewed for this piece that runs on the National Football League Players Association website and is reprinted here with NFLPA permission)--

Chuck Cascio, editor of the book

 Never Ask “Why”—Football Players’ Fight for Freedom in the NFL by Ed Garvey

PREORDERS AVAILABLE NOW AT--

 
http://chuckcascioauthor.com/index.php/football-players-fight-for-freedom

 When Ed Garvey, then a 31-year-old attorney from Wisconsin with no football background, took over as the first executive director of the NFL Players Association in 1971, his credentials didn’t exactly fit the job description. But over the course of a 12-year tenure built on the premise that athletes should be treated for who they are – workers in the labor force – Garvey helped generate the spark needed for the union to earn big wins, including true free agency, larger revenue for the players and, perhaps most importantly, dignity on the job.

 

In the latter years of his life, Garvey began putting together notes for a book about his time leading the NFLPA. When Garvey’s 2017 death at the age of 76 prematurely halted this endeavor, award-winning journalist Chuck Cascio was asked by Garvey’s family to take the baton in finishing the job. 

 

Never Ask “Why”: Football Players’ Fight For Freedom poignantly presents the story behind how the athletes who made up the game of football fought to make sure the league’s owners played fair – all through the words and lens of Garvey.

 

In anticipation of its December 23 release, Cascio recently discussed the book’s origins and message.

 

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 How did it come about that you would be the one who finished what Ed Garvey started in writing this book?

 

When Ed died in 2017, his family knew he was trying to put together a book to tell the story of establishing the NFLPA and the fight for player rights. Through a mutual friend in [former NFL player and NFLPA assistant executive director] Brig Owens, he put me in touch with the family. I wrote my first book with Brig in 1972, and the Garvey family graciously asked if I could put together Ed’s notes into a manuscript for his book. So I got in touch with an agent and we were able to secure a publishing company in Temple University Press. This all was about a three-to-four-year process.

 

What was that process like in pulling together a book for someone who you didn’t have the luxury of speaking with along the way and yet still maintaining his vision?

 

What kept me going was, absolutely, the importance of this book in the world today. There’s this assumption that athletes have it made, so they should just be quiet. That’s a direct reflection of what Ed and the players had to deal with, and it’s still going on today. The title is “Never Ask ‘Why.’” Ed wanted that title because that’s what players were told when they asked about contracts or certain benefits that, really, they were entitled to. Owners said don’t ask why; just do what you’re supposed to do on the football field. And of course, Ed and the players mightily pushed back against that.

 

There’s so much unique content, and it’s all in Ed’s own words. The book is very conversational with both personal and scholastic appeal. The Garvey family graciously provided me with tons of information – some that was roughed out in manuscript form and some where you could see notes of his thought process. I did as best I could to honor his words and content. It’s not an autobiography of his life, though. It’s a reflective, honest piece about his tenure with the NFLPA and the 12 or so years when he was really in charge of things.

 

What are some of your biggest takeaways from the book?

When most people look at pro athletes, they think “Oh, they’ve made it with the money and fame.” But that’s not entirely true. Yes, they are a lot better off today than they were in the ‘70s and ‘80s, which is when Ed was running the NFLPA. But it took a lot of work and sacrifice to build that progress, and that work is far from finished in holding the league accountable in treating players fairly as workers and people.

 

One thing that we really see in the book is the fight to get rid of the Rozelle Rule and the limitations that were in the standard player contract, which was based on a system built in the 1870s. There was no right to go play for another team, and I wasn’t fully aware of how much power that gave owners over players, who were basically giving up their bodies every day for their sport and profession. Ed said, they were not being treated as professionals; they were being treated like chattel.

To me, while I had some awareness, I was guilty as any other fan who says, “Oh man, why are athletes complaining? They have it made.” You really start to understand the roots and what they had to go through to earn what they have today.

 

Are there any anecdotes that you especially enjoyed or feel like truly capture who Ed was during his time leading the players?

 

Ed always had a quick wit and humor about him as well as a deep intelligence -- and that comes through often in his writing. He also made a great comparison with the singer Barry Manilow about how he gets 90 percent of the ticket revenue that comes in but football players don’t get anything close to that for doing their job in much the same way. I found it fascinating to get a glimpse into how Ed discovered the wage scale among owners, which was a confidential agreement to limit and determine how much players should be paid. That’s where the “No Freedom, No Football” slogan came from during the 1974 strike.

 

There are also times where Ed admits he and the group of players were naïve and made mistakes. They were guilty of believing the owners were going to change after the Rozelle Rule was struck down in court, and then two days later, they see nothing changed. Instead, the owners were using their influence over the media to push a narrative against the players. That type of transparency makes the book even more compelling.

 

What is the one message that you want readers to get from reading this book?

 

Something that comes through in the book and Ed re-emphasizes in the end is that, while writers focused on the players’ concerns with the reserve system in economic terms, players were subject to a lot of non-economic factors as well. For instance, Black players were not able to play certain positions like center and quarterback. And listen, we’re not talking about 150 years ago. We’re talking about the 1980s. This was real, this was going on and it still is going on today in many different ways. That’s what I want people to take away, and Ed hits on this in an excerpt at the end of the book:

 

“So, the battle is joined. Management, with weapons from all other sports leagues, the union with help from the AFL-CIO. Looming on the horizon are billions of dollars to be generated by pay cable television. When the fight comes, NFL players will understand that the “performers” deserve most of these revenues and they will understand that, if successful, the reserve system and all of its dehumanizing aspects will have died in the NFL. It will be a battle worth watching, worth participating in.”

 

 Copyright: NFLPA and Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

Questions? Comments? Write to chuckwrites@yahoo.com

RACE IN AMERICA

RACE IN AMERICA,

FEATURING THE THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES OF BRIAN ALLEN

FROM BRIAN: I am an ambassador of positive energy...people connector...mortgage advisor..former college athlete...casual triathlete.  I’ve lived a very fortunate life, growing up all over the country…Joliet, IL, the home of The Blues Brothers; New Jersey; Dallas; Houston; and Northern Virginia/DC.  It allowed me to nurture healthy relationships with a multitude of people and cultures.  I played college basketball for Penn State, and I currently work as a mortgage advisor.  More than the issue of race being a crucial topic today, the way it is being used to threaten our democracy is what is of utmost concern to me.  That is my reason for sharing my thoughts.

NOTE:   I will often use “Black” and “White” not because either term is a real human distinction, but because it is a real construct in our country. I personally prefer to be referred to as Black rather than African American because it is one syllable and simple.

“ME! WE!”

Why I Think Democracy Will Win

By

Brian Allen

 

Muhammad Ali, when speaking to Harvard’s graduating Class of 1975, was asked from the audience to recite a poem, and “Me. We.” is what he came up with.   This is known as the world’s shortest poem, but it does pack a punch.  (See what I did there?)

In explaining it, Ali said, “… what I gained was the ability to see the world in something like the way God must see it. To understand that there are no distinctions of any real importance in the affairs of men, that there is only one time and one place and one person and one truth. And that we are all contained in that time and place and person, and that the truth contains us all.”

Who represented “One World” more than Ali?  It is the message of community and togetherness, what Ali stood for, that inspired me to share my thoughts on where we are as a country in the two years that have passed  since George Floyd lost his life to police violence.  This was a time, like 9/11/2001, when this country was “We.”

From that tragedy, I learned that I had numerous allies (members of the dominant caste), who with sincere intentions, wanted to know how to do better.  COVID took away people’s ability to look away, to ignore, and to rationalize what happened to Mr. Floyd, and it is important that we stay vigilant toward anti-racism.  It is no longer acceptable to stay silent, or even neutral.  My message to the multitude of friends looking for guidance was to improve their racial intelligence, because it creates empathetic ears, which leads to ally behavior.  

In order to manage this overwhelming demand, I actually started a private Facebook group called “My Allies” to provide a safe space to ask questions and discuss things without judgment, and to share ideas on how to fight racism.  If we can’t talk about it, we cannot eradicate it.

The more sinister form of racism is the unseen, which produces outcomes detrimental to people of color.  That ranges from written policy/laws to silence in the face of racism…when good people do nothing.

The most disappointing or disheartening exercise for me, especially during the previous administration, has been with people who I know love me and would probably take a bullet for me.  It has been their inability or unwillingness to try to figure out why, on a daily basis, I was not only more aware of my Blackness, but also more afraid because of my Blackness for the first time in my adult life.  They know my even temper, empathetic nature, and open-mindedness.  Why, when I would suggest ways to understand it more, would I just experience radio silence?  Is it shame, embarrassment, or denial?  Whatever it is, I’m not going to give up on them, because they are me, and I’m trying to get them to “we.”

Understanding Racism and Institutional Racism

Whether it’s people I know, or talking heads on TV, one of my pet peeves is a lack of true understanding of racism, which is a subset of institutional racism.  The often-used definition of racism revolves around intent and looks like the person wearing a hood, burning a cross, terrorizing people of color.  That is the easy-to-see definition, popular until the decade I was born when it became quite distasteful to suburban America.  It made it easier for people to absolve themselves of “that” disease or to deny they are taking part.  It had to evolve and become less obvious.

ACTION ITEM: PLEASE EDUCATE YOURSELF ON INSTITUIONAL RACISM, RACISM, AND ANTI-RACISM 

The FBI Criminal Behavioral Analysis

Within the FBI, there is a position called a Supervisory Special Agent in the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), agents who are trained in deception detection.  In layman’s terms, they are human lie detectors.  They use training, verbal, and nonverbal cues to determine whether a suspect is telling the truth.  They are a vital and very respected profession within the organization.  It is a process that takes 7-15 years to even apply.  

Think about all the knowledge you gained between 1st and 10th grade.  Then, take those 7-15 years of experience, and add 20, 30, or 50 years to it.  But, instead of using that talent to fight crime, you use that talent to avoid professional roadblocks, micro-aggressions, physical harm, or even death. That is the Black experience when it comes to detecting racism.  It’s not 100% foolproof, but you get the point.  By instinct, I can walk into a room and pretty much pick out the allies as well as the others  who may not have my best interest at heart.  Thankfully, in most cases the latter are few.  

Getting back to the FBI Profilers.  Yes, I have some basic knowledge on whether someone is being truthful, but I would not sit in a room, with see-through glass and tell a Deception Detector if the subject is lying.  So, it is probably best to leave racism detection to those who have the years of knowledge and experience.

Let me expound.  From American history, personal-lived experiences, and statistics, my every day latent fear of terrorism has a White face, not a Brown, or Middle Eastern one.  But that same lived experience precludes me from assigning a negative stereotype to all White faces.  

Those White teenagers who threw firecrackers at me in elementary school were offset by the big Texans with the cowboy boots, and big belt buckle, cursing out other adults with White faces who said something derogatory to me in a Dallas hotel lobby.  Before that I was trembling inside because I had heard “How they are in Texas,” and learned a lifelong lesson at age 11. 

The White teenagers who chased me down the street in their car in Houston, TX, when I was 14, were undone by the Taylor family, a White family who took me and my brother in as if we were their own, when my single father had business trips. The Taylors taught me how to water ski and to love Austin.

The White teenagers during my senior year in high school, who called me the N word, and told me to go back to Africa, and threatened my well-being, were immediately negated by the White faces of my high school friends, who without a word, waited on a bus stop bench with me, letting me know they had my back and were ready to rumble if those guys returned.  These lived experiences have given me a heightened ability to be able to recognize allies and enemies adeptly.

I try to explain it to my friends of the dominant caste by starting with my favorite definition of White Supremacy.   What I say goes something like this…  

“You could go your whole life without meeting a Black person and be very successful.  The same is not true for me; I could not go my whole life without ever meeting a White person and thrive.  In fact, any successful person of color has had to interact on a “10,000 hour” level to succeed in a White world.  Until I was 14, I went to all White schools all over the country, but still had to endure the N word, threats to my life, firecrackers thrown at me as a child, and multiple driving-while-Black incidents, so my life experiences have made me “racially bilingual.”  Because there has been no need for you to live in my Black world, there is a natural blind spot for you.”

Then I follow that up with…

“When George Floyd died, so many of my good friends came to me for answers, I had to go back to school to get my ‘Race Masters Degree.’  I was almost embarrassed at how much I did not know about race in this country…how much was intentionally left out.  So, if we all went to the same schools, and I, as a Black man, was embarrassed about how much we didn’t learn in high school, is it possible that there might be room for you to become more informed?”

ACTION ITEM: INSTEAD OF TRYING TO PROJECT YOUR IDEAL OF WHAT RACISM IS OR ISN’T, RECEIVE THE PERSPECTIVE OF THOSE WHO HAVE THE LIVED EXPERIENCE

 

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 Who Is “Us,” and Who is “Them?”

“Explaining racism to a White person is like trying to explain water to fish.” – Tim Wise

“Race” is such a complex word because, as it applies to DNA, it is a manmade construct created in this country in the 1600’s, when the plantation owners realized they were far outnumbered by the enslaved.  They had to create a social construct to engineer a “White” majority with those who, before then, were no better off than the enslaved and only categorized by their country of origin…English, Irish, German, Italian.  

These indentured servants were given horses and guns and were motivated by fear that the Black and Brown people (“them” from earlier) were the threat, not the power elites.  The reality was that the slaves and the White indentured servants had more in common (economic insecurity) than the indentured servants had with the plantation owners.  

Tim Wise, author of White Like Me, is considered to be one of the foremost intellectuals on anti-racism.  If you listen to any of his lectures, he usually discusses “the greatest hustle” the wealthy used on the others who looked like them. My favorite heartfelt lecture from Tim can be found on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_IBE94hh9s

This hustle is still alive and well today. The plantation owners and power elites have been replaced by politicians and power elites, who seem to maintain a caste system motivated by power and White supremacy.  I’m talking about the 1% of the one-percenters.  Think Trump, McConnell, Graham, DeSantis, Gaetz, Holly, Cruz, and those that support their supremist agendas.  It’s business suits instead of the “Colonel Sanders” outfits.

If we had a better grasp of our history, those people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th would see that they were being used by the power elites, just as those who stormed the Capitol in Wilmington, NC in the 1890s, and those who fought in the Civil War to maintain the slave states for those power elites who benefitted most.

People of color, like me, and pretty much anyone not of color I know would be the “us,” even though the economic net is much wider than it was in the early stages of our country’s founding.  I have no one in that highest tax bracket that I break bread with.

ACTION ITEM: INSTEAD OF LABELING SOMEONE A REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT…CONSERVATIVE OR LIBERAL, START DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN THE 1% OF THE 1% VERSUS THE REST OF US.  VOTING RIGHTS. GUN LAWS. HIGH GAS PRICES.  ABORTION BANS.  WHO BENEFITS AND WHO DOESN’T?

Zero Sum Gain

The generations-long practice of divide and conquer as it applies to race is getting those of the dominant caste to believe that if consideration is given to the subordinate caste, then those in the dominant caste give up something, or a lot of something. To those fighting diversity or social programs, giving to the marginalized makes the piece of the pie smaller for those who are advantaged.  Diversity, in my opinion, would produce a bigger pie.  Of course, my opinion is based on studies on economics (larger tax base), neighborhoods (multi-cultural enrichment), and education (better test scores and social awareness) that have all shown that diversity produces positive outcomes.

I contend that the piece of the pie does not get smaller with diversity.  I contend the pie gets bigger.

ACTION ITEM:  START ACKNOWLEDGING THE MEGA-WEALTHY IS WHERE PEOPLE’S IRE SHOULD FOCUS, NOT INTERETHNICALLY. 

 Living With Grace – What if We (dominant caste) become Them (subordinate caste)?

I’ve been under the tent long enough to know one of the major motivating factors of the extreme right movement is the fear of becoming the “minority” in this country.  Knowing exactly what the sentiment is about, I give the simple answer first: 

That would make those who fear being a minority, actually be one of “us” and we would all be in it together. 

Or is it… “I don’t want to become the minority because I know how I’ve treated them, or at the very least, how many have treated them”?  

Throwing away the obvious unintended self-admission, it tells me they have no one significant in their lives who has been marginalized.  

For the sake of this blog, I’m going to stick with what I feel about it.  To endure all that we have endured, and still thrive, it cannot have been done without grace.

                  Macro level – All of those kids who desegregated public schools showed grace in the face of rocks, spit, and racial epithets thrown at them.  Even as adults in hindsight, they reek of grace. 

              Micro level – My high school friend, whose parents disinvited me to his birthday party, is a current Facebook friend of mine and we correspond periodically.   To explicitly disinvite me because of ethnicity takes a special kind of racism.  They could have come up with 10 other excuses.  But even in the moment, I knew it wasn’t his decision.  If my ethnicity was an issue with him, I never would have been invited.  I’m sure the hurt and embarrassment of that stung him like it did me because it was perhaps the first time someone in his life did something he knew was not right.

So grace has been imbedded in our DNA since that first ship hit Jamestown in 1619.  Once the dominant caste becomes the minority, no one is going to start following you around in stores, or stopping you in your car for doing nothing, as we have endured.

Why Can’t We Just Move On And Stop Talking About The Past?

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is not just a quote from philosopher George Santayana when referencing the horrors of The Holocaust.  Those in the dominant caste, who are uncomfortable acknowledging our country’s past, conveniently want to celebrate the 4th of July, and enjoy time off on “Columbus Day,” but talking about the dark side of our history often becomes taboo.  

That’s like buying a business because of its assets, but totally ignoring the debts.  

In my line of work people pay thousands of dollars for title insurance and hundreds of dollars for an appraisal to make sure there is nothing catastrophically wrong with a home.  But our country has had a shaky foundation since before it was a country, and many prefer not to talk about it, or just choose to ignore it like it’s going to go away.

ACTION ITEM:  LEARN YOUR REAL AMERICAN HISTORY BECAUSE IT IS DIRECTLY AFFECTING OUR TODAY AND OUR TOMORROW.

THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTES

The human condition seems to be, for things to make sense, that we have to pigeonhole people…put them in neat categories…prejudices.  The goal should be to acknowledge those prejudices, address them, and grow.  The world does not operate in the Black and White.  It operates in the gray.

My father’s favorite saying growing up was, “Racism should be a pebble in your shoe, not an albatross around your neck.”

CONSERVATIVES AND “STOP BLAMING THE WHITE MAN”

One of my problems with conservatives of any ethnicity are tropes like “You can’t blame the White man for your problems…you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps…you have to strive for Black excellence.”

I contend that the two are not mutually exclusive.  Any person of color who has excelled has not only acknowledged institutional racism but has adeptly circumnavigated it.  Any person of color in my immediate circle provides living examples that  racism is real, but it isn’t going to stop them from thriving.  

My basketball analogy is of my 6’ 10” teammate saying, “Stop blaming the tall people for your struggles in basketball!”

There was absolutely nothing physically I could do about it, so I used my physical “deficiencies” to my advantage…to blow by the taller players…to increase the arc…to make eye contact. my shorter stature could help him…get him the ball in the paint because he can’t dribble.  T-E-A-M!

The Southern Strategy and Its Grip on Society Today

As a country, we have had a history of White backlash with the progress of the Blacks.  Reconstruction brought The Black Codes, record lynchings, and the construction of statues and memorials to The Confederacy to demonstrate White supremacy.  The Civil Rights Movement brought about The Southern Strategy in the decade when I was born.  

As I have mentioned, blatant racism became unsavory to American sensibilities.   The triumvirate of George Wallace, Barry Goldwater, and Richard Nixon were the transition from bullhorn racism to dog-whistle racism, moving it into the gray palatable areas.  The politicians started using code words to appeal to that segment of the population who did not in favor the strides Blacks were making, especially with the Civil Rights Acts of 1964/1965.  That is the inflection point when Democrats (Dixiecrats) started moving over to the Republican Party.  Even candidates for governor, like Ronald Reagan, were the “early implementers,” using words like crime…tough on crime…law and order…young bucks…jungle paths…welfare queens…individual property rights…forced busing…states’ rights…immigration…illegal aliens…liberal.  

The backlash was in the form of the largest campaign of mass incarceration of people of color our country has ever seen, which continues today.

Please do not take my word for it.  Lee Atwater, a political consultant to Reagan, and Bush 41’s campaign manager 1988, spilled the beans in this interview he thought was off the record.:  https://youtu.be/X_8E3ENrKrQ

A protégé of Lee Atwater was Stuart Stevens, a Republican Political Consultant, and Media Advisor for Bush 43’s 2000 Campaign.  Showtime is currently running a 5 episode series that shows the through line of 50 years of dog-whistle politics.  Stevens, had a mea culpa, when faced with the presidency of Donald Trump, and created The Lincoln Project, a group of former Republican strategists whose sole purpose became to insure 45 wasn’t re-elected.  They definitely had an impact on the result of the 2020 election, but it was his introspection that was so revealing:

The Lincoln Project Episode 1/Minute 24 - “It’s all about race.  But, the whole Republican Party is all about race.  They seem to have given up pretending otherwise…The Republican Party has become a white grievance party.  There’s always been this element in the party.  I don’t think Trump made people more racist.  I think he made it ok to be racist.”

The Lincoln Project Episode 1/Minute 53 - “[Lee Atwater] He would hire somebody like me to really do the racism.  My first lesson in racial politics was in The Southern Strategy.  All politics is, at least certainly in the south, is played in the key of race.  So, our path to victory is to maximize White vote…It was playing the race card if I’m honest about it.  But, you’re able to convince yourself, that the danger of the other side, is greater than the flaws of the side that you’re for…I think that in many ways, we [The Lincoln Project] feel a sense of personal responsibility.  Who would believe this party, like this thing that you worked in, turned out to be, to some not insignificant degree, a force for evil?  I can’t say it’s not my fault.  The firm that I started was the most successful firm. I helped elect more than anybody else.”

What we are witnessing today is a direct result of the third major event of Black progress…the election of Barack Obama.  Pushback that brought about the Tea Party, the MAGA Movement, and all of the other far-right groups we are seeing today.  The lexicon of the dog whistle has been expanded with more “boogie man” terms like…”liberal media…radical left…build that wall…Black Lives Matter…woke…critical race theory.”  The last three were positive terms, and movements, in the Black community that were appropriated and weaponized by politicians.   

Critical Race Theory was the political response to the inarguable facts of George Floyd’s murder.  As a side note, anyone demonizing The 1619 Project hasn’t read it, because it discusses the heroes of all races fighting for freedom and equality.  When has critical thinking ever been a bad thing?  Why does adding “race” create hysteria?  When has banning books or not telling the truth ever been a good thing?  Answer: When elites who wanted to maintain power decided it was.

The hands of the Democratic Party are definitely not clean, but there is only one party that is a clear and present danger TODAY to this experiment called Democracy.  There is a segment of the population that will be unmoved by this blog post, but there is the majority of the population, I believe, who fear for the democracy, and the rights that are being taken away.  They/we just need to be empowered and encouraged to do something about it. 

By those charged with election security, 2020 was the most secure election ever. In four particular cases of voter fraud that I heard of, all voted for 45.  One of the four was a woman of color, a former felon, who was told she could vote by the election board, but then had it rescinded.  Which one of the four was put in jail? 

VOTE the election deniers out!  DON’T VOTE for the election deniers currently in office!  It’s never been about Democracy for them.  It has been about power.  We as citizens have the power to save this country from autocracy, and if Kansas is a bellwether, I truly have hope that we will do the right thing…be on the right side of history.

 

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What has been most enlightening to me in these last 2+ years is the readily available facts about our history, that were suppressed in my public education.  It is a history that scholars have been documenting since the ‘60’s.  Here is a list of the books I have read since the murder of George Floyd, and the multi-cultural authors who have reinforced things I knew, and confirmed certain things I felt:

White Like Me – Tim Wise

Caste – Isabel Wilkerson

The 1619 Project – Nikole Hannah-Jones

The 1619 Project Born in The Water – Nikole Hannah-Jones

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man – Emmanuel Acho

Dog Whistle Politics – Ian Haney Lopez

The Sum of Us – Heather McGhee

The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander

White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo

White Rage – Carol Anderson

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Myth of Race – Robert Wald Sussman

What Unites Us – Dan Rather

A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zen

Everything Trump Touches Dies – Rick Wilson

The End of Policing – Alex Vitale

The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson

Critical Race Theory: An Introduction – Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

Critical Race Theory – Caldwell Wagner

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? – Beverly Daniel Tatum

The Essential Kerner Commission Report – Jelani Cobb

Born A Crime – Trevor Noah

Copyright: Brian Allen, all rights reserved.

Contact Brian at Brian.Allen30@gmail.com

 

 

 

POSITIVE COMMUNITY INTERACTION!!!

THERE CAN BE POSITIVE COMMUNITY INTERACTION!

By

Chuck Cascio

       It was a lovely Thursday October evening, so Faye and I decided to go to an informal event at a park in the Reston Town Center. I had long been advocating (some might say "whining") for more outdoor activities at the inviting open spaces in the Town Center, and we had recently heard that on Thursday evenings in September and October outdoor jazz performances were being featured there. Adding to the appeal was the fact that viewers of the performances could participate in what was featured as "Sip and Stroll," a nice way of saying that if you purchased an alcoholic beverage from one of the predetermined restaurant bars, you were allowed to take your cup to the event, walk about, watch and chat. Further adding to the appeal of this was the fact that the events (though not the drinks) were FREE!!! 

     So...beautiful evening, a chance to sip and stroll, listen to some jazz for no charge...why not wander out and see for ourselves?

     We each purchased a Sip and Stroll beverage at Passion Fish, walked to the park nearby, and sat on the informal artificial turf. The group performing was a quartet, the Shawn Purcell Group, that played with incredible creativity--the kind of jazz that is both inspiring and entertaining. 

     The kind of jazz that makes you say, "How do they come up with that?" 

     The kind of jazz that made little kids dance informally and adults shake their heads both to the rhythm and to their amazement at what they were hearing.

    But the most important takeaway from the evening was the feeling of community. Everywhere we looked, we saw hundreds of people of every age group and ethnicity smiling, chatting, interacting in ways that reflected the music, the evening, and the sense that they all belonged to something together. No political causes from either side infringed on this event. The people in attendance clearly understood that this was something more than the buzzing hostility that hovers over, and too often enters, our daily lives.

     Two days later, on a chilly October Saturday, we took our youngest grandchild, five-year-old Catherine, to another event at the Reston Town Center. This one was filled with multiple options, many of them free, mainly for kids. From open-air train rides around the Town Center to informal line-dancing instruction for all ages to face painting and more. 

     One spot in particular, besides the face painting, captured the attention of Catherine and many other kids (as well as adults)--the hula hoop experience. Yes, you read that correctly--an energetic woman dressed as a morphing of clown and trainer encouraged anyone of any age who wandered up to try the good old fashioned hula hoop...and this captured attention beyond anyone's imagination.

 

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     Little kids, including Catherine, were determined to learn how to twirl the hoop. The energy they displayed as well as their persistence  were a far cry from the stereotype we have of kids today--that they are wedded to their phones and their virtual world. 

     The hula hoop experiences, as well as the face painting, free ice cream, chance to run in open spaces and more all captured the attention and energy not only of the kids but of their parents...many of whom were hula hooping and getting their faces painted and line dancing and more with their kids! 

     None of this is to imply that we do not live in a very different world (in so many respects) today from the one that those of us of a particular age group can recall. Sure, times change and people change and adapt and generations evolve (as did ours) with their own values and their own views of what life is about. But simple experiences like those presented at the Reston Town Center remind us that there are still common factors that we can all experience and share. 

     Giving us the opportunity to share those factors and to see true community involvement, even for a few days a year, can remind us of the importance of youth, development, and--most of all--community.

     Note: Special thanks to the Reston Town Center Association and its executive director, Robert Goudie; Boston properties and its marketing director, Sapna Yathiraj; and all the folks and organizations who are committed to bringing these engaging community events to the Reston Town Center. For more information, go to: 

https://restontc.org/live-work-enjoy/enjoy/sip-stroll-rules/darden-friends/

and 

https://restontc.org/live-work-enjoy/enjoy/sip-stroll-rules/second-saturdays/

…and to get a taste of the Shawn Purcell Group's music, go to

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWSCiktGXh0

Copyright for this blog entry: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

Thoughts? Write to chuckwrites@yahoo.com

 

 

FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM THE TRANSFORMING EDUCATION SERIES

Five Takeaways from the TRANSFORMING EDUCATION Series

by

Chuck Cascio

 

     When I started the “Transforming Education” series on my blog last school year my goal was simple: Cut through the empty political blather and share ideas and experiences from people who have actually devoted their lives to teaching, school administration, and education-reform initiatives. As a former teacher of 27 years at both the secondary school and university levels, and as a former executive at two major education research/reform organizations, I knew this-- 

     The reality that people inside schools experience daily is vastly different from the “experience” of people who push around political and/or personal agendas. 

      Inside any school building, where youths move through various levels of maturation daily, there are multiple tensions, challenges, and, yes, rewards. Every teacher who is doing their job thoroughly is basically putting on approximately five hours of “shows” daily for youths whose brains and emotions are often pulled in many different directions. Administrators, counselors, and support staff are submerged in analyzing challenges and experiences that can help each individual child. And leaders in education reform organizations like the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy, the National Board for Professional Teaching standards, and many others put their experiences on the ground-floor as they search for innovative ways to help the daily challenges that their colleagues inside schools face.   

     These ground-floor experiences and the challenges that emerge from them are at the heart of education reform. That is not to say that political interest is not important—it is, for all the obvious reasons in American society today. But far too often, the political proposals and decisions are made without any realistic understanding of what goes into the exhausting day-to-day operations of educators. So I invited educators and education-reformers with that ground-level reality to contribute to my ongoing series “Transforming Education” and they responded with truly enlightening experiences, comments, and proposals that have the capability of making real change. 

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Here are five key takeaways summarized from their collective comments, but I urge all readers to review my blog site to read their comments in depth…and to follow the series, which will continue during the 2022-2023 school year:

     >>>TAKEAWAY #1: Grass-Roots Reform—The need for transformation is immediate and it must start at the grass-roots level, which means getting the input of teachers, administrators, and educational organizations. The conversation in the field has been overtaken by politicians and others who have little or no experience actually engaging in day-to-day learning activities. Nor have they spent significant time inside school buildings actually experiencing and analyzing the fundamentals of educational operations. 

     Every person contributing to the Transforming Educations series has had--and is having--those experiences. 

     Every person in the series knows what it is like to try to engage students in activities designed to help strengthen their self-image, to increase students’ understanding that the world extends far beyond their own daily lives, and to help students commit to increasing their knowledge—all part of a process that is constantly evolving. The experiences discussed in the series are filled with levels of engagement that show the respondents’ awareness of how true education develops. From the heartbreaking racism some experienced to the realization that someone in a position of educational development actually believed in them, these educators show how their lives were changed. 

     Those lives were changed not through narrow-minded, empty rhetoric but through daily, minute-by-minute decisions made with the knowledge that the world is bigger than any one person. Through the comments of these committed educators, we see realistic actions that can be taken—actions dedicated to making students aware that their lives are more than a simple ideology.

     >>>TAKEAWAY #2: Students First--When a teacher or coach or counselor or administrator makes it a point to let students know that their lives and their intellect are meaningful and can be used for a greater good, those educators have a positive influence on countless lives. Sadly, respondents in the “Transforming Education” series also shared some examples of the opposite experience--the unnecessary criticism leveled by an education professional on students in ways that made those students feel inferior and reduced their sense of purpose. 

     Educators are not perfect…they make mistakes like lawyers, doctors, athletes, mechanics, politicians and other professionals do. They may not even be aware of their negativity in the moment and the lasting impact it can have on individual lives. But they must be made aware! There are ways to do that, to assist educators who need to have their purpose adjusted, and those methods must be implemented in order to bring teaching to a new level of professionalism--a level that is essential and is already being implemented by many in the field. 

     I believe that educators want to reach their students in a positive manner. They recognize their opportunity to change lives in a moment and to guide students as they consider their future. We see from the responses in the series that everyone, when reflecting on their own experiences as students, had both positive and negative experiences. But let’s focus on the positive, the responses that show how teachers can shape lives through simple, consistent, personalized interactions.  Transformation occurs primarily by keeping students in mind as the priority rather than the goals of politicians.

>>>TAKEAWAY #3: The Times Are (Always) Changing--Old methods of instruction are being outmoded. Relax!That does not mean that every teacher needs to become a technology expert. However, it does mean that the reality needs to be faced--kids today are tech-driven, and in the “Transforming Education” series various statements show ways in which new, more engaging methods of learning can be implemented. 

     Sure, educators should try to do things that take kids away from their technology—to engage them in conversation, to stimulate their on-the-spot thinking, to help them realize that they are MORE than their technology. But that can be done while also engaging them to use technology in creative ways--perhaps to develop videos that correlate to a piece of literature or to elaborate on a historical event or to encourage them to explore cutting-edge areas of science. The educators in this series, and the others out there like them, have those creative ideas but they MUST be given the opportunity to explore and implement them without fear of political reprisal.

     Society moves on as time moves on. New experiences impact and shape daily lives. Our cars are different. Our methods of payment for daily needs are different. Our social interactions are different. Yesterday’s science fiction is today’s reality. The respondents in the series make us realize that things also change in education and, therefore, educators and education itself must change in order to match the times and the experiences of the youths we serve.      

>>>TAKEAWAY #4: Teachers Deserve Respect…and Higher Pay--Various responses in the series also touch upon the ongoing lack of respect for teachers in particular and educators in general. This has to change. Anyone who actually believes that teaching--real teaching--is easy has never actually done it!!! Teachers are pretty much on stage for several hours per day in front of the toughest "audience" imaginable--young people whose active minds are ready to be engaged and are easily distracted. 

    As is noted in some responses, too often teachers are viewed as having an "easy" schedule--"only" working nine months of the year, summers "off," etc. That is nonsense!!!  Teachers who are deeply engaged in their work put in countless hours during the school year and during summer month studying, preparing, creating, learning. It is a nonstop process, and it is a process that requires the highest levels of professionalism

     Yet the average public school teacher salary in the United States is approximately $64,000, a figure that varies significantly by state and locale.  (Members of Congress and the Supreme Court receive well into three-times that amount, along with staff, retirement, and various other benefits.) Teacher benefits such as health care, retirement, IRA contributions also vary widely with some states and localities not providing pensions at all. 

     The knee-jerk reaction to improving teacher pay and related issues is that there are not enough measures in place to determine how effective teacher performance is, so providing increased benefits and pay across the board would reward even those who are not reaching high levels of professionalism. Perhaps to the surprise of many, I agree that there should be measures in place to ensure that teachers are performing at the most effective levels possible, and an answer is in front of us: 

     Series respondent Peggy Brookins heads the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, an organization that has established the highest levels of teaching performance as developed by educators and researchers in their respective fields for more than 30 years! Implementing those standards nationally would provide goals for teachers to reach, the possibility for incentivized compensation for teachers who reach those goals, and the requirement that every few years teachers must show that they are continuing to perform at the highest levels of those evolving standards. 

     Teachers deserve to be treated, evaluated, and compensated as professionals, but the standards that they are to reach cannot be established by politicians operating in isolation of the profession. The members of the profession themselves can--and have--established those standards. All that is required now is implementing a process for transformation. 

>>>TAKEAWAY #5: CHANGE IS POSSIBLE!!! This series will continue indefinitely because too many people seem to believe that meaningful change in education is either unattainable or can only come from outside sources. Every person has some experience, at the very least, as a student. But those singular experiences do not comprise the total reality! Read the insights in “Transforming Education” in order to get at least a taste of the complexity that goes into teaching, school administration, and education reform. There is no singular experience, no personal solution—education is so much bigger than the singular. It is about many; it is about thousands of individual decisions made by educators and students daily; it is about understanding that the real world is larger than any one person’s reality.

     Certainly, given the system in which we live where political realities tend to drive other realities, we should not ignore the potential impact of politicians on the decisions that need to be made to help transform education. However, those politicians should not venture into the unknown. They should make a commitment to spend significant time inside school buildings, talking to teachers and administrators, observing the incredible diversity in the student body, and meeting with education-reform organizations to gain a personal, detailed insight into what those organizations do and how they might help in the transformation.

     Change is essential. Change is overdue. Change requires thoughtful, insightful, experiential action.  With that, then yes: Change IS possible!

Your Thoughts/Comments? Write to chuckwrites@yahoo.com

Copyright: Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

      

 

 

In Memory of Brig Owens: Football Legend and So Much More

IN MEMORY OF BRIG OWENS—

An Outstanding Football Player and So Much More

By

Chuck Cascio

     Fifty years ago, a 25-year-old freelance writer and would-be-author heard of a summer camp that was being sponsored and run by some members of the then-called Washington Redskins football team. The camp was designed to help needy kids, mainly from inner-city areas, have a brief but significant experience outside of their city in a semi-rural setting. The youths would spend several days and nights together under the supervision of a few dedicated members of the Washington football team. The purpose of the camp was not just to teach football—though informal instruction was part of each day—but also to give the kids the chance to experience and enjoy a different taste of life, something far removed from the heated sidewalks of the city. 

      Brig Owens was the player who most aggressively recruited kids to attend the camp and he was determined to make the camp meaningful in many ways to all of them. And I was the aspiring, nobody freelancer who wrote the story thanks to Brig accepting my request to spend a day at the camp.

     Brig’s death on June 21, 2022 at the age of 79 hit me hard, but much more important is the fact that his passing serves as reminder of all the good that can be done by one person who commits his life to helping others. 

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     For Brig, my feature story provided publicity and possible additional funding for a camp that helped thousands of kids over the years. For me, it was a step toward recognition as a young reporter. For us both, it was the start of a friendship that led to a book entitled Over the Hill to the Super Bowl that we co-wrote based on Brig’s diary of the 1972 Washington football season, the first year the Washington team ever went to the Super Bowl. That friendship lasted throughout the 50 years that have passed, and it also led to a book that will be released this fall by Temple University Press. The book, written by the late Ed Garvey who served as executive director of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) from 1971-1983, details how Brig, who earned his law degree after retiring from football in 1977, and other players committed themselves to developing the strength of the NFLPA. Brig used his experience and expertise to raise the level of pay, benefits, and ultimately respect for athletes who too often in the 1970s and ’80s and were taken for granted and treated unfairly.

     Brig’s name and his jersey number, 23, are featured on a wall of Fedex Field, the now Washington Commanders home turf, and Brig was inducted into the Washington Ring of Fame for his outstanding career as strong safety with 36 career interceptions and countless key plays. Sure, I will remember him for his on-field intelligence, speed, toughness and game-changing plays. But I will also remember him for his willingness to work with me over the years, and for his determination to improve his own life, the lives of his wife and two daughters, the lives of fellow athletes, and the lives of countless others.

     Brig Owens remains an example of the value of positive commitment. He was an outstanding quarterback, punter, and placekicker for the University of Cincinnati, where he was inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame. But at a time when Black players were not viewed as prospective professional quarterback prospects regardless of their outstanding collegiate accomplishments, Brig was moved to the position of safety in 1965 when he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, who placed him on the taxi squad and then traded him to Washington. Not one of the greatest moves by the Cowboys, to say the least!

     When writing our book Over the Hill to the Super Bowl in 1972, Brig would occasionally stop by my home to drop off the secretly-recorded audiotapes he was making on which he detailed the team’s practices and preparations for games. He always played with my two-year-old son, Marc, who knew he was in the midst of a guy who actually played pro football on TV! My younger son, Ross, came to know of Brig a couple of years later as Brig's accomplishments continued to accumulate.

     At other times, I would drive to Redskins Park, located at the time in Herndon, VA, and park at the far end of the lot so Brig could drop his audiotapes off to me without anyone noticing. When the book was published after the season following the close Super Bowl loss to the undefeated Miami Dolphins, Brig did not back away from interviews. There was concern among some in the press and some players that Washington coach George Allen would be upset over the secretly published content. However, Brig viewed it as his personal right to have the book published and given Brig’s character and, of course, his on-field skills, Allen never openly challenged the book’s publication.

     Brig’s belief in players’ personal rights was evident in his involvement as a player representative to the NFLPA and then as assistant executive director of that organization. He was a leader in the fight for players’ salaries, pensions, and other benefits. For football players, there will always be a debt owed to Brig and to others who believe in equal rights on and off the field. 

     Brig was not a man driven by a quest for personal recognition. First and foremost, Brig was a man who saw that through his position, intellect, and personal drive, he could contribute to the benefit of others. So that is what he did. And that will be Brig Owens’ lasting legacy.

Copyright: Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

Reach me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com; @ChuckCascio on Twitter; Chuck Cascio on Facebook.