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Monday, January 17, 2011

Living the Dream of Inclusiveness Thanks to Dr. MLK Jr.'s Teachings

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


  1. Becky, It was very interesting to read your perspective. I was never told some of the information you shared here. I always love how Martin Luther King wanted people to be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

    Also, I wanted to mention that the poem of mine that was chosen this week did not have a hidden message as it was not written with any holiday in mind. The motivation behind my poem variety was actually a very cynical person that I knew once who made a comment about God only making so many types of fruit and I think he was trying to make people question faith. To that I say to myself that we didn't have to have even one fruit and the world could all be just gray with no green grass or blue trees.

    Thanks for your insights.

  2. Barb: I’ve kept most of that information very close to my chest. A lot of other people are reading about it for the first time. Also, thanks for further explanation on you poem – Variety.

  3. My Dad's sister (1/2) was with a group of her friends and at one point they were talking about how great Michelle Obama always looks in her outfits and someone mentioned something about her being black (maybe something like the colors she chooses go with her skin tone), but my aunt was extremely surprised, she had completely forgotten that she was black and it made her really reflect that we have come so far and she was very happy.

  4. Sherri: Thanks for stopping by and sharing your aunt's story. It's a true example of not seeing in color. Yay -- it's also happening right now in the 21st Century too! Dr. King would be very proud.

  5. The comment by Sherri does show that we have come a long way as a country.

    While Becky's athletic ability was evident in Volleyball, Softball, Soccer(didn't tell parents how bad her hole in the ear drum pain was in around first grade because she loved to play so much, and in speed in general, I think it is amazing that she did so well given that she is even shorter than me and I am short for a woman. She had the moves and the skill!

    I was reflecting on courses I took at UNO and recall a paper on stereotypes that I did and how they are used when one race wants to dominate another. I recall how people would always impose race limits. I think all of the barriers have been broken where people of different races have done amazing things across the board. I remember how they would try to discredit work by focusing on athletic ability and also discredit the mind of the athlete. For instance, the Williams sister's at the time of my study were spoken of regarding their strong physical ability but not given the credit for strategy. I don't think a person can rise to a high level in any sport without having a strong strategy upstairs of the game.

  6. Barb: Indeed, naysayers always try to break a person down -- even if they’ve never walked a mile in that person’s shoes.

  7. Becky, I had no clue about your basketball past! I was just thinking how much I would love to shoot some hoops at HPER over lunch. We should make it a lunch date!


  8. Katie: Yes, I used to have some mad basketball skills. So, HPER it is. More than likely we'll be playing h-o-r-s-e not one-on-one;) Thanks for stopping by our site too.