Today, Jan. 17, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose message of equality resonates with many Americans more today than ever.
As I’ve hinted to population-we readers -- I’m a former jock. In fourth grade I scored 35 points at the Millard YMCA (that was before the three-point line), enough said. Through school and extracurricular sports, I’ve made many life-long friends (which holds true to today). My freshman year in high school I made the leap from catholic school education to public, which is the best decision my family and I ever made. I went from Marian High to Monroe Middle School. Coming in late in the semester at Monroe there was no hope for me to play basketball for the school. So, I tried out for a team at the North YMCA called the Hawkettes, an all African-American girls' basketball team. I made the team and was the first-ever Caucasian to play for the Hawkettes. Remembering back, I had some of the best times. My favorite was playing 1-on-1 with Nessie or Tish before practice.
I would find out years later that some of the players and parents were irate that I was chosen to play on the team. Unbeknownst to me they had threatened to beat me up. My parents and the coach agreed to keep it a secret because they were afraid I would quit or it would affect my game. Now it was clear to me why my dad was present at every practice and basketball game. Regardless of this strife, our team was a team to be reckoned with -- we would win the league easily. In the end, all our differences were put aside once we stepped onto the hardwoods.
A year later, Coach Roper decided to form an elite basketball team, the core of the team consisted of Hawkettes. He also added a couple other Caucasian players to the team who I played with at Marian High. Together we would win the Nebraska tournament and represent the State at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) - USA National Championships in Miami, Florida. We didn't win on the court in Florida like in Nebraska; however, our lives were forever enriched from the friendships we made. Trips together through Everglades Park and a day at the beach are forever imprinted as one of my all-time favorite memories with good friends.
After our Florida tournament we were all flooded with scholarship offers -- I was only a sophomore. My most noteworthy offers included Cornell University and Kansas University. As a Junior, I would play on the first-ever Benson High School girls basketball team that would win Districts and make it to State. It was an exciting time.
I did not take those basketball scholarship offers and chose to focus on my love for journalism during my college career. During college at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I still managed to play on numerous college intramural and local club teams; coached a couple West YMCA teams; officiated games at the YMCA's as well as volunteered at Girls Inc. basketball camps.
Many of the greats have taken the leap to go against the norm. By no way am I a Jackie Robinson. Robinson did courageously break through baseball's color barrier in 1947 at the height of segregation. I just played on a North Omaha YMCA basketball team because I loved the game. Unlike Robinson, the threats and ridicule towards me were behind my back. I strongly believe sports cross all barriers and today because of my past experiences -- I don’t see in color -- everyone is equal to me. I truly believe generations behind us won't see in color as well. Thank you Dr. King!
- population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown