Little League World Series becomes showcase for black youth

It was the second out in a game-ending double play. The first baseman from the Great Lakes Region Little League team left his left foot behind, touching the base, as he stretched out to catch the baseball floating his way. By the time the play was over, he was laid out, stomach down in the dirt, with the ball snuggled in his glove.

By the time the play was over, the Jackie Robinson Park All-Stars from Chicago, Illinois, had booked a date in the Little League World Series final.

And for the first time, in what seems likes months, we see 13 young, black faces on the television screen, emerged out of one of the most dangerous areas in the country, headed down the path of success.

What a joyous sight it is.

For the past two weeks, the Little League World Series has garnered major air time on both ESPN and ABC. In recent years, ESPN has, in fact, featured the youth event in its television lineup, including color commentary and analysis from some of its most esteemed baseball minds.

This year, the event received a jolt of life from two unlikely areas–Chicago and Philadelphia–and one unlikely player–Mo’ne Davis.

Let’s talk about Chicago and the Jackie Robinson Park boys first.

The team’s namesake, in essence, says it all. Jackie Robinson, an alum of UCLA, was the first modern era black player in Major League Baseball. He entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, ten years before his death. HIs number, 42, is retired across the MLB and on Jackie Robinson Day, every player in the league wears 42 for the day.

Enter Jackie Robinson West, an all-black park team with an all-black coaching staff playing a predominantly white sport.

At the beginning of the 2014 MLB season, according to the Pew Research Center, 8.3 percent of players were black. In 2012, blacks made up 7.2 percent of players and in that same year, whites made up 63.9 percent of the MLB.

Now, that’s not to say that blacks are somehow being held out of baseball. A majority of black youth are partial to basketball and football, and we can see that with the number of black players that make up the NBA (nearly 80 percent in 2011) and the NFL (nearly 70 percent in 2011). Both sports tend to be cheaper than baseball and provide more of an opportunity for instant gratification, in the form of a dunk or highlight-reel catch.

But this group of 12- and 13-year olds has bucked that trend tremendously, going 5-1 in the LLWS before reaching the LLWS final again Seoul, South Korea.

In fact, the Chicago boys lost 13-2 to Nevada in their second game of the tournament, and their next four matchups served as elimination games. In the U.S. final, facing Nevada once again, Chicago exacted revenge, winning, 7-5.

And let’s not forget one crucial point: this team is from the south side of Chicago. The side that you hear about for all the wrong reasons. The side synonymous with gang culture and black-on-black crime. The side where 9-year old Antonio Smith was killed in a shooting on Aug. 21.

This group of talented boys, a few years removed from high school and hopefully college, deserves a wealth of credit for their perseverance, tenacity, and skill on the baseball diamond. And even though they lost in the title game to Seoul, 8-4, they’ve turned an unlikely journey into a source of pride for the black community on a nationwide scale, a ray of light in a dark time.

And if that wasn’t enough, there is one more youngster–a little black girl–who has given us something to smile about as well.

Her name is Mo’ne Davis. She’s 13. She’s the only girl in the LLWS. And if you haven’t seen or heard of her, take a look at this video below:

Mo’ne don’t play.

And in the past two weeks, the outpouring of support from Davis nationwide has been immense. Michelle Obama, Ellen Degeneres, Magic Johnson and Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw are among the names that have taken to Twitter to laud Davis’ skill and positive attitude towards the game.

While Davis is a standout in baseball, however, she says that her favorite sports are soccer and basketball. She hopes to play basketball at the University of Connecticut.

Davis saw her run to the LLWS final come to an end when her Philadelphia team fell to Jackie Robinson, 6-5. But the buzz Davis created, as the lone girl in this year’s LLWS, will last a lifetime.

Our attention, as a community, has been aimed at the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri. A young man’s life was lost, and if anything is worthy of our attention, it’s that.

But there are times, that in the midst of tragedy and injustice, our tunnel vision allows us to overlook some of the good that is still happening among our youth. The Jackie Robinson All-Stars and Mo’ne Davis, if anything, are worthy of a smile and head nod. It’s worth it to know that this special group of kids is making their families and cities proud, regardless of skin color.

So while we continue to pray for justice in the case of Michael Brown, let’s also give thanks to God, for blessing us with a group of young superstars, as they continue on their journey to greatness, the first steps in the journey having taken place right in front of our eyes.

Bishop Blake Calls for Peace, Prayer in the Wake of Michael Brown Shooting

Bishop Charles E. Blake on Thursday issued a request for prayer regarding the shooting of Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown, as the nation continues to keep its eyes on the happenings surrounding Brown’s death.

Below is Bishop Blake’s statement:

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) joins the family of Michael Brown in asking for calm and peace in the aftermath of the shooting and killing of their son. Eighteen year old Brown, known as a “gentle giant,” was only days away from beginning his college studies.

It is imperative that the community resist the temptation to retaliate by looting and rioting in our own neighborhoods. Instead, we must allow the St. Louis County Police Department and the FBI’s investigations, regarding the senseless death of this young African American male to go forward.

The destruction of property in Ferguson, Missouri only hurts our communities and places more lives at risk. Furthermore, this riotous behavior takes away attention and resources from these extremely critical investigations.

I ask that we all remain patient and wait for the results of the investigations. During the next few days, please avoid settings that may put you at risks in any way.

Most importantly, please remember to pray for Michael’s family, especially his parents, Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, as they prepare to lay their son to rest.

Blacks Are Not Domestic Terrorists #JusticeForMikeBrown

After the fatal police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Missouri teen Michael “Big Mike” Brown, President Obama urged people to have a discussion ‘in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.’” 

So, what healing discussion should we have? Perhaps one that says: we are not what the media depicts us to be.

Once word got out that Brown had lost his life in close range at the hand of Ferguson, Missouri Officer Darren Wilson, nine people ranging in age from 19-38 took to looting and rioting Foot Locker and Princess Beauty Supply Store–each of the nine face felony charges relating to burglary and theft along West Florissant.

But if you recall media reports over the first few days of after Brown had been slain, the entire Ferguson County was up in arms and no one was safe.

Do the majority of black people agree with looting and/or rioting? No. That is never the answer. And according to Professor Brittney Cooper, “the answer also isn’t preaching to black people about ‘black-on-black’ crime without full acknowledgment that most crime is intraracial. The answer is not having a higher standard for the people than for the police.”

It seems that when black people get mad when unarmed teenagers are gunned down, the spectator response to looting rioting is “you’re driving business away,” from conservative commentators like Glenn Beck. There is a voice that is being stifled and when our black president finally comments, as mildly as he did, you have commentators like Todd Starnes from FOX news saying, “Pres. Obama is just looking out for his people.”

Which people are you referring to, Todd? The American people or black people?

When black people can’t see clearly through painful eyes and take to looting or other forms of expression, they are labeled as domestic terrorists. But when right-wing “terrorists” in America blow up abortion clinics, shoot Jewish community centers, encourage modern day KKK meetings or cut off the water supply to people in Detroit, they are following their constitutional right to have freedom of expression. The facts don’t lie.

Marc Lamont Hill, a writer and host for the Huffington Posts says, “A Black man in America is killed every 28 hours by police or vigilantes. THAT, not rioting, is domestic terrorism…”

The issue is finding a way to move past the anger. Anger is what makes people act out in ways that they wish they hadn’t in retrospect. But how do you comfort growing negative feelings towards a nonchalant judicial system? The reality is for the black community is that the justice system simply does not measure up to our standards. Numerous cases of unsolved murders, no due process or restitution for a victim’s loved ones are what the black community sees regularly. These emotions cannot be put into words because while prejudice towards black people does exist, it’s rare to find an openly racist cop or a judge. The prejudice is nuanced; it’s woven into the system, and it builds with each interaction until, at last, it results in unequal justices.

There is no comfort that can arrive fast enough, or resolve that can come quick enough. People are concerned for their black husbands, sons and brothers.

Brittney Cooper says, “I refuse to condemn the folks engaged in these acts, because I respect black people’s right to cry out, shout and be mad as hell that another one of our kids is dead at the hands of the police. The police mantra is ‘to serve and to protect.’ But with black folks, we know that’s not the mantra. The mantra for many, many officers when dealing with black people is apparently, ‘kill or be killed.'”

But again, we are not what the media depicts us to be. We are strong descendants from King and Queens of Africa. We are trailblazers in technology, music, medicine, sports, art and chosen heirs to the Father’s Kingdom.

Malcolm West, 26, tells West Angles Online, “I took place in the Hands Up Don’t Shoot rally right where it all happened. Don’t believe what you are seeing in the media. Things are peaceful. No one is rioting or looting.”

Married couple, Cory James, 30 and Rebecca James, 35, both agreed that the city was as peaceful as it has ever been. Rebecca says, “All the years spent in St. Louis, living in the inner-city and suburbs of St. Louis, I have a diverse perspective of how this city runs. The air here is peaceful. People are looking out for one another, sharing their food or water with each other [during the protest].” Cory says, “taking part in this rally made me feel like justice was prevailing. Outside of marriage and conceiving a child, this is the most exciting experience ever in life. My wife and I feel like the new era Civil Rights Activists.”

Hands Up Rally in New York

HandsUpRallyNY
Hands up don’t shoot in Kansas City

HandsUpRallyKansasCity

Most media outlets are designed to incite an outcry and not necessarily designed to report the news. Stories are fabricated, wounds altered. But we cannot let our emotions get caught up in a situation that may not exist. Continue to pray and protest peacefully. Hold your loved ones a little tighter and believe that better days are coming.

Remember the God you serve. Remember His promises to you. Hold on to His faithfulness.

Robin Williams’ Death: Hiding the Pain in Our Laughter

I don’t think I have ever been so affected by the passing of a celebrity in my life. Ever.

I tend to hold to the belief that no matter how often we may see celebrities in the media, we don’t really know them. But the news of Robin Williams’ death was different; this was shocking, almost—unbelievable. Growing up, Williams was the doctor I always wanted, a dad that would dress up as a nanny just to be close to me, he was the professor I could hope for and wish-granting genie.

I think about how shocked I was at hearing the passing of Williams at the age of 63 and as I write this post, I still don’t think I have completely digested how a man could bring joy onto the lives of many, yet be suffering inside.

Williams died in an apparent suicide at his Northern California home on Monday.

“He has been battling severe depression,” his publicist, Mara Buxbaum told CNN. “This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

One area of Wiliams’ life that may not have been as visible as his on-screen performances was the different charitable causes he represented. In 2004, and up until the time of his death, Williams dedicated much of his time fundraising for St. Jude’s hospital, never charging for his public appearances.

“Whenever he had an opportunity to meet patients and families he would do it,” said Kelly Schulz, vice president of communications at St. Jude.

As a board member of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, “Robin would do two or three dinners or events for us each year,” said Peter Wilderotter, CEO of the foundation. “Many celebs have requirements about cars and who they will talk to, but Robin was the opposite. He showed up on his own and he stayed at our events and talked to everyone.”

A portion of President Obama’s statement regarding Williams mentioned his support for American troops.

“He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”

The United Service Organization said that throughout his 12 years of involvement, Williams created special moments for nearly 90,000 servicemen and servicewomen in 13 countries.

“Williams traveled around the world to lift the spirits of our troops and their families. He will always be a part of our USO family and will be sorely missed,” the organization said in a statement.

Williams’ wife, Susan Schnider says, “…I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on his death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

It is hard to come to terms with the fact that a man who battled depression and alcoholism was able to devote the majority of his time bringing laughter into the homes of many. People who are creative, have deeper connections and show pure forms of empathy, have difficulty expressing their needs, wants and desires.  Often, these people are hurting right  in front of us at the check out counter, at church sitting next to us, or working with us, but never show it and unfortunately, never ask for help.

The Research has consistently shown a strong link between suicide and depression. 90% of the people who die by suicide having an existing mental illness or substance abuse problem at the time of their death. We need to change our stance on mental illness and recognize it as a disease, not a character flaw.

The facts on suicide:

  • The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression.
  • Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year.
  • Over half of all suicides occur in adult men, ages 25-65.
  • Many who attempt suicide never seek professional care.

For confidential help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

For confidential support on suicide matters call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or visit
a local Samaritans branch or visit http://www.samaritans.org/

For certified counselors committed to the work of the Lord contact West Angeles Church (323) 737-7463.

Through the tragedy of a lost childhood icon, it is my belief and hope that this may shed more light on the seriousness of mental illness.