a national hero for helping college student athletes
graduate from college
Chicago speaking to outstanding high school student athletes about getting the
best deal possible from the colleges that are recruiting them.
Mary Willingham (second from left)
meets Cliff Alexander (second from right), the 2014 Naismith Award Winner for
Best Boys Basketball Player in America. Mr. Alexander is 6'9", 240lbs, averaged
24 points, 15 rebounds and 6 blocked shots per game while leading Curie High
School to the much vaulted Chicago City Championship. Also in this picture are
Jonathan Jackson, National Spokesmen for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (left) and
Mr. Alexander's Mother (right). Mr. Alexander will attend the University of
Kansas in the fall.
Ms. Willingham teaches outstanding
student athletes how to balance athletics and academics, how to negotiate for
the best long-term scholarship deal, how to prepare for life after athletics,
and how to keep your family and community engaged with your decision-making
Ms. Willingham, small White woman in
yellow Educate or Die shirt, stands with a group of outstanding Chicago high
school student athletes who could possibly defeat some of the best teams in the
NCAA. Some of their parents are in this
Mary Willingham is in great demand across the country. If
you are interested in having Ms. Willingham speak to the coaches, high school
administrators, parents and student athletes in your city, please call The Black
Star Project at 773.285.9600.
Superman, You Are
By MARLEN GARCIA
Lacey Holsworth and Superman (Adreian
Recently I read an article in Bleacher Report about a
little girl from St. Johns, Mich., who is battling neuroblastoma, a cancer that
strikes infants and children.
8, has family and friends willing her through surgeries, chemotherapy
and radiation treatments, but one man stands out: Adreian
Payne, the guy she calls Superman.
Payne is a star basketball
player for Michigan State University and he's quite a giant at 6-foot-10.
He and his teammates met Lacey in January 2012 when they visited sick kids at
the hospital in Lansing, Mich., that was treating her.
It is common for college
athletes to occasionally visit hospitals, a good deed to make someone's
day and generate positive publicity for the team. In a video produced last year
by the Big Ten Network, Lacey says she asked Payne to stay with her a while
longer that day because of his smile. He gave her his phone number and told her
to stay in touch.
He has stuck with this precocious
little girl ever since. The bond between them has gone well beyond a goodwill
gesture. It transcends color (she is white; he is brown) and sport.
They refer to each other as
brother and sister. She goes by Princess Lacey on
Twitter, and you can see there that she loves all things pink - and green if
it's associated with Michigan State.
"She's fighting so much and still
has a smile on her face," Payne said by phone. "To see a young girl go through a
fight like that and still have so much joy ... she's only 8 years old."
Superman, you are
Thursday, Lacey felt strong enough to join Payne for his
senior-night recognition ceremony after a win against Iowa. With one hand, she
held his as they prepared to make their entrance. The other held a bouquet of
roses. She wore a sparkly skirt, green Michigan State jersey and an eager
Payne swooped her up in his arms to carry her across the
basketball court. Just like
As a Black man, my heart aches over the
disproportionate numbers of men and boys of color left back by schools, left out
of jobs and caught up in crime.
As a Black public official, I am struck by
how little appetite there seems to be among law makers to deal with the root
causes of this. So, I am encouraged by President Obama's leadership in his "My
Brother's Keeper" initiative.
We all know the
statistics. Disproportionately more African and Hispanic-American boys are in
poverty, ill-nourished and without adequate health care; more stuck in
achievement gaps or in underperforming schools; more subject to school
discipline; more "disconnected," as the social scientists say, from college education and jobs; more victims of violence or in
jail. We also know how interconnected these calamities are, how poverty, for
example, connects to school readiness, or how critical good fathers are to
growing boys into responsible men.
And yet we listen to the
statistics and the news reports with a measure of resignation, as if these
realities are beyond our capacity to care about and to solve.
president has wisely engaged us all. His initiative brings business and
philanthropic leaders together with policy makers, educators, faith leaders and
law enforcement, to consider how to save boys and men of color.
As we charge young men of
color to break their destructive cycles, we as policymakers can help by breaking
a few of our own. President Obama's initiative will give young men who work hard
and play by the rules a chance to succeed. That's good for them and for
This opinion piece originally ran in the Bay
My Brother's Keeper
A Perspective from Mother
Last week President Obama
announced a new initiative with leading foundations and businesses that will
take a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to build ladders of
opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color - and
they're getting to work immediately.
He signed a Presidential
Memorandum establishing the My Brother's Keeper Task Force to help determine
which public and private efforts are working, how the Federal government can
support those efforts, and how we can get more folks involved in those efforts
across the board.
While the President should be applauded for launching
this initiative, I am reminded of an example from our motherland that serves as
a call to action within our communities.
We must insist that government
resources paid for with our taxes should be directed to our most intractable
problems. Yet, we should also support grassroots efforts that operate in the
spirit of the Maasai Warriors of Kenya.
I have seen strong leadership at
the grassroots level in communities all over the country. One of the concerns I
have about the President's initiative is that the initiative will "cherry pick"
programs of the well-connected, and many of the effective grassroots programs
will suffer from lack of funding.
I am encouraged and hopeful that
this initiative will gain support and strength within our communities, and
outlive President Obama's term in office.
Only 10% of 8th-grade Black boys in the
United States read at a proficient level according to the National Assessment of
Educational Progress (NAEP). This predicts an absolute catastrophe for
Black communities across America in the next 5- to 10-years!!! There is no
plan, that I know of to teach more than 10% of Black boys to read proficiently
I have spent much of my life
asking elected officials for help, asking faith leaders for help, asking
business leaders for help, asking parents for help. For the most part, I
received very little help to teach Black boys to read.
Now I am asking you for
Shavelle Bell, sitting left and Tiffany
Hope, right, representing the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc - Theta Omega
Chapter, make a generous donation to the Young Black Men of Honor Mentor Program
at The Black Star Project. Phillip Jackson is sitting between them with mentees
If only 10% of Black boys read
How will they qualify for the
few, precious job opportunities in America?
How will they support
How will they help build and
stabilize our communities economically and socially?
How will they be able to serve
as role models and mentors for coming generations of young Black
Who will our daughters
Can the Black community
survive if our male children cannot read?
I have asked the White House,
the State House and City Hall for help to teach Black children to read, but
apparently at this time, this is not a priority for them. Is it a priority for
I am asking you to help us
financially so that we can teach Black boys to read at a proficient
If you know of another
organization doing as much or more than The Black Star Project to educate Black
students and develop Black families, you should support that organization
financially now! If you do not know of another organization doing this work,
please support The Black Star Project.
I thank Illinois State Senator
Kimberly Lightford, Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Collins, and Chicago
Alderman Will Burns for their ongoing support for The Black Star Project. I
also thank Illinois State Representative Esther Golar for her personal support
for The Black Star Project.
Now, I need your support to
teach Black boys to read proficiently.
support we can accomplish much more. Please become a member of The Black
Star Project today and
help us continue our nation-leading work in the area of creating better
students, better parents, better families and better
Click Here to become a member
of The Black Star Project
of 8th-Grade Black Males Proficient in Reading*
3% Cleveland - 3% Detroit -
5% Washington (D.C.) - 6% San Diego -
7% Dallas - 7% Baltimore City -
7% Chicago - 9% Jefferson County, (KY) -
9% Atlanta - 9% Los Angeles -
9% Philadelphia - 9% Austin -
9% Houston - 9% Hillsborough County (FL)
* Source: Minority Students and Public
Education by Dr. Michael Holzman. This information was extracted from the U.S.
Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for