Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mayweather Dominates Marquez in Return to Boxing - Record 40-0

Floyd Mayweather Jr. returned to the boxing ring after a 21-month absence and is still pound for pound the best boxer in the world. It was a unanimous decision. He was bigger, faster, smarter and overpowered Manuel Marquez, maintaining his perfect record in his return from a 21-month ring absence.

Floyd Mayweather knocked down Marquez in the second round and then peppered him with countless damaging shots to remain unbeaten at 40-0, with 25 Knock Outs.

Juan Marquez (50-5-1) moved up two weight classes to be Floyd’s comeback opponent. At Friday’s weigh-in, he was four pounds lighter than Mayweather, who paid a $600,000 penalty for missing the bout weight of 144 pounds.

Mayweather often appeared to be toying with Marquez, who is considered among the world’s top fighters. Marquez struggled just to get close enough to throw good combinations. Marquez had a bloody nose by the bout’s midway point, and Mayweather landed several hard shots late in the sixth round. Whenever Marquez appeared to land a combination, Mayweather backed away with a grin.

Just 18 months ago, Marquez lost a narrow decision to Manny Pacquiao—another mighty mite who is likely Floyd Mayweather’s opponent. Floyd returned for another eight-figure payday that should set up an even larger pay day with a bout with Pacquiao.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hidden Power in the Capitol

Walk softly and carry a big stick (in this case a big whip). A headline grabber? Not exactly. Busy? Every day. Congressman Jim Clyburn is at the center of the Democrats' most pressing concerns on Capitol Hill. As the majority whip, the No. 3 Democratic position in the House of Representatives, he's in charge of keeping the party together on votes. For the past year or so, Representative Clyburn has been and for at least the next year will continue a very popular-and powerful-man. So what exactly is a party whip? A whip in the U.S. House of Representatives manages their party's legislative program on the House floor. The Whip keeps track of all legislation and ensures that all party members are present when important measures are to be voted upon. The role of the Whip can be traced back to the Parliament of the United Kingdom which adopted the term Whip from the fox-hunting position, ‘whipper-in,’ or the person who kept the fox hounds focused on their mission. In Congress, the Whip’s job is to count votes and ‘whip’ up support for legislation and keep members focused on the mission.

The 15-year veteran of the House is the highest-ranking Black person in Congress. He traces his political to lessons learned in a where his father went to divinity school but made only $10 a week from the Church of God and instead supported his family as a contractor; his mother graduated from college when he was 13 and then just hung the diploma in her beauty shop. He was always interested in politics. Congressman Clyburn stated made plans at age 12 to go to college and work in Washington, D.C. He became the first Black congressman from South Carolina since 1897.

As a student at South Carolina State College (now University) in 1960, he organized the state's first sit-in at an Orangeburg drugstore with six friends; later, he would join a civil rights group led by future Congressman John Lewis, now Clyburn's right-hand man. Congressman Clyburn was a community organizer, a teacher, an employment counselor, and a failed candidate for state representative before beginning a 20-year career in state government, most prominently as human affairs commissioner.

Although a soft-spoken man, when he latches onto an issue, he'll make his voice heard. Right now, his passions are turning the rural areas around South Carolina's Interstate 95 corridor into a center for biofuels and improving the state's health and education programs, (other South Carolina politicians should take note – try to help one of the poorest states instead of…that’s another blog – coming very soon). He's also focused on smoothing assistance for Katrina victims, and the people of his district.

He was unanimously elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and took charge of the party's faith working group in the House. He was also elected chairman of the Democratic caucus. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are the public faces of the House Democrats, but it's Jim Clyburn who handles the nuts and bolts of holding the party together on votes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Young Tennis Sisters II

Two young Black sisters from southern California and budding tennis stars; sounds familiar. No they are not the William sisters. They are Elizabeth and Mary Profit, but they share many of the athletic qualities that have made Venus and Serena the most dominant sisters in tennis history.

Elizabeth is 13 years old and holds a top ten ranking among 14-year-olds. She is already defeating top-ranked players in the 18-year-old division. Her sister Mary, at 11, is also a top-ranked player and dominating her age group. Mary won her first tournament at the age of 6.

Both girls started playing tennis as infants by hitting balls of socks across their living room. Their mother, Yvonne Profit, recognized their talent and saw it as an opportunity to develop sportsmanship and character and just maybe an opportunity for them earn athletic scholarships at top national universities. So far, they have exceeded her expectations. The Profit sisters grew up in a single-parent household and developed an exemplary work ethic to compensate for a lack of resources. Mom Yvonne, who earned a degree at the University of Michigan, decided to give up her full-time job and move her daughters into an RV to compensate for the expenses of traveling for tournaments. The girls view living in an RV as an inconvenience rather than a hardship. In a sport that more often tends to develop players from affluent backgrounds, Elizabeth and Mary have already beaten overwhelming odds and endured the kind of adversity that too often ends in defeat.

The Profit sisters may be on a path toward a professional tennis career, but Elizabeth's story off the court is just as compelling. She has juvenile diabetes and has been living with the disease since the age of 2, when her body stopped producing insulin. Elizabeth learned how to test her blood sugar levels before the age of 3 and two years later, she began administering insulin injections on her own. She does not use her diabetes as an excuse. Younger sister Mary knows that diabetes can be debilitating and a matter of life and death, so she constantly watches over her older sister.

For the past ten years the Profits have been unable to obtain private health insurance on the open market because diabetes is considered a pre-existing medical condition. Elizabeth used to rely on a large insulin pump to make it through the day, but now she wears a small patch that releases insulin. Despite the inconvenience of checking her blood sugar level a dozen times a day, Elizabeth has not let diabetes deter her from achieving her goals. At 17 she plans to be playing in at least the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open and eventually winning grand slams and obtaining the No. 1 ranking.

Next year Elizabeth plans turning pro and enter the women's professional tour, at the same age that Serena and Venus Williams turned pro.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Breaking the Color Barrier in the Great American Outdoors

The United States has beautiful national parks, with untouched vistas of the Badlands, Yellowstone and Yosemite to name a few. But amid the breathtaking views, there is one a glaring omission. Under the pristine blue skies, there are hardly any people of color. Why are there so few Black people visiting the national parks? Why aren't Black folks enjoying the parks they helped create - the public lands that belong to them as well?

Why are there no stories on national parks or the environment in Ebony, Jet or Essence? Parks are an unknown quantity to most people of color. President Obama and his family recently took in some of this great beauty at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park.

Ken Burns promotes the idea that national parks are “as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence” in his latest television documentary series “The National Parks: America's Best Idea," which begins airing on PBS on September 27. The most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone." The documentary shows the beginning of the park system and the contributions of people of color.

There are people like Shelton Johnson, raised in Detroit, Michigan, and a stranger to national parks until he became a park ranger at Yosemite. There he tells his mostly white visitors the tale of the Black cavalry regiment, known as the Buffalo Soldiers, who protected the land and toiled to build trails and roads. When he first arrived at Yosemite 15 years ago, Johnson had no idea Black soldiers had a share of the park's history until he saw a black-and-white photo of men who looked like him. These were the faces of Americans who helped build the park. Yet less than 1 percent of the visitors to Yosemite are Black.
Historically, Blacks have shied away from the outdoors. Ethnic minorities are conspicuously absent in activities such as camping, hiking, skiing, cycling and rock climbing.

Part of it was based in poverty. A lack of money and transportation held minorities back from road trips and ski vacations. But fewer socioeconomic barriers exist today, but a cultural wall still prevents minority participation. A 400-year-old legacy of slavery was reinforced by the post-Civil War and Great Depression migration of Black Americans to urban areas. Jim Crow laws restricted their movements, while acts of violence were often perpetrated against Blacks in remote wooded areas. Blacks found safety in their own homes, behind locked doors. Asians and Latinos also live with a history of forced labor outside. Historically they might avoid certain areas because of perceived discrimination. Outdoor spaces are not places of refuge for minority communities.

Minorities within the national parks work force vastly underrepresented. By midcentury, minorities are expected to become the majority in the U.S, but 5.5 percent of the current park system staffing is Hispanic, while 9 percent is black and 1.8 percent is Asian. About 80 percent of the park service work force is White. In a report issued in May, the park service acknowledged it needs to make diversity in both its work force and its visitors a priority.

There's a beautiful world out there that belongs to all Americans. I’m hoping that Black and Brown soon will see green.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Black Men Can’t Coach?

Indiana State University is one of the few football programs to have a Black coach and Black coordinators. ISU head football coach Trent Miles has a simple philosophy when he hires assistant coaches for his staff; hire the best people possible. ISU is the only non-Historically Black College and University (HBCU) football program in the Football Championship Subdivision to have a Black head coach and Black offensive and defensive coordinators. And is one of only two Division I programs overall to have that distinction. Troy Walters is offensive coordinator and Shannon Jackson is defensive coordinator.

While the three men their skin color, they all acknowledged Black representation in football coaching ranks is important and has been a hot-button issue for a long time. The percentage of Black coaches is too far below the percentage of Black athletes in the sport. Excluding the HBCU schools, there are 224 Division I schools that offer scholarships in football. Among those schools, there are 10 Black head coaches, comprising only 4.4 percent. That's far below the more than 50 percent Black participation level in football.

Only six non-HBCU FCS schools currently have black head coaches and only three, including Miles, are at schools that offer scholarships. One of them -- Richmond's Mike London -- coached his team to the FCS championship in 2008. Mid-American Conference champion Buffalo is coached by Turner Gill with offensive coordinator Danny Barrett and defensive coordinator Fred Reed.

It's a crying shame that there's 119 (FCS) schools and there's so few minority head coaches. There are quality people out there who are only used as position coaches or looked upon as recruiters. And when an opportunity does come up, it's usually not with a program that's desirable for anyone to take. It's a difficult decision to take a job where one might ultimately fail and damage a career versus not taking a job at all and keeping one's career limited. With very few exceptions, usually the Black coaches are getting jobs on the lower end that need to be rebuilt. You're usually not getting jobs that are ready-made. A good example is Tyrone Willingham; it's generally forgotten that he was brought in to fix Notre Dame and to fix Washington. What happens is you put in the ground work in a tough situation and either the university runs of out patience and fires the coach, or, the coach runs out of patience and move on.

Miami's Randy Shannon is the only Black head coach currently in charge of a program that has made a BCS bowl appearance since the system came into place in the 1990s. Richmond’s Mike London is the only FCS coach in charge of a recent playoff program. Miles took over the ultimate rebuilding project at ISU, a program that is 1-50 since mid-2004.

In Coach Miles' case, he was a former ISU player and a Terre Haute native, and rebuilding the Sycamores appealed to him. Miles had peers question why he'd want to put himself in a position where the losing ways of a program that could drag him down professionally. Coach Trent Miles has coached at eight different Division I universities and was an assistant coach on the staff of Coach Tyrone Willingham at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington.