Etan Thomas Leads Panel Discussion in Harlem
By Ricardo A. Hazell
Informs Children of the Power to Shape Their Own Future
Last week, author, activist and former NBA player Etan Thomas and the Kinnon Group, in conjunction with Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, held a Fatherhood Panel in Harlem, New York before 6th and 8th graders from the New York Public School District who are considered "at risk."
In other words, they are beautiful black and brown children from economically disadvantaged and disenfranchised backgrounds.
The Shadow League has always had an affinity for athletes who are actively involved in the community, and are aware of all the pitfalls, traps and real life monsters that await children from inner city backgrounds. In order to properly break it down for the crown, Etan Thomas gathered a menagerie of former professional athletes who could have easily found themselves in the police blotter of local newspapers, in prison or in the city morgue had it not been for a key decision or two.
On hand to give testimony were former WNBA All-Star and author Chamique Holdsclaw, former New York Knicks small forward and Syracuse Orange standout John Wallace, 13-year NFL vet and three-time All-Pro linebacker Keith Bullock, legendary griot Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets, former Syracuse Orange basketball standouts Louis Orr and Roosevelt Bouie, as well as poetic offerings from Danny "Versatile" Crawford, Messiah Ramkissoon, and Thomas' very own progeny Malcolm Thomas.
Chamique Holdsclaw was the first to take the microphone and share her testimony.
"Here I am, this young kid, born into a situation where both my parents were homeless," she said. "So, I'm watching my parents go into a state of dysfunction. Here I am, me and my brother are both kids, the police knock at our door. The next thing you know we can't live with our parents anymore." Holdsclaw went on to explain that she had to move to the Queensbridge Houses to live with her maternal grandmother. "The girls that I went to school with would be like 'Don't hang with her,'" she said. "They would come on the basketball court and try to beat me up. And I was scared. I was six-foot-two, I'm a big woman but I was so scared. I was jumped, I was beat up all the time. But I knew I wasn't going to be dealing with this my whole life. I knew I wasn't going to be living in those housing projects my whole life." "I was trying to figure out what's the fastest way outta here," she explained. "My grandmother would say basketball is not the way out but school is. She was strict. Before I could go outside I had to do my homework first, but I became good at basketball too. It became a distraction for me because basketball was my coping mechanism. That's where I took out all my anger and frustration."