Athletes and entertainers are high profile people who are both famous and make a lot of money. So you would think because many come from urban poverty, crime ridden areas they would be leading the way in trying to help others pull themselves out of these desperate conditions.
It still amazes me to hear the conditions some of these athletes come from, which says there are thousands of other kids coming from the same conditions. Kids living on the streets, kids having to go to other people’s houses to eat, kids raising themselves, kids going to bed—if they have a bed—hungry, right here in America, in the 21st century.
The movie “Blind Side” for example, showcased a kid living in doorways, allies, laundromats, in the cold. It just happened he was a great football player who ran into a White family who adopted him, and now his story is being told via movie, but how many other kids like him who can’t play a sport are out there just existing. And we wonder why so many kids are killing kids in the streets. Yet the athletes or entertainers who are doing anything are generally the exception, not the norm. One such exceptional athlete is LaMarr Woodley.
Woodley has started up a foundation to help young people with toys around Christmas time, coats and clothes, scholarships and other needs they have the entire year. But along with this he recently announced he has joined forces with Valerie Dixon in her billboard campaign to stop the violence in our streets.
What she does is offer rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of murderers. She along with Tim Stevens are probably the leaders in the fight to stop violent crime. But very few Pittsburgh entertainers or athletes other than Charlie Batch have stepped forward to offer their fame, money and time to this effort so far. Hopefully this will be a sign to the rest to find a way to help young Black kids who are in desperate need of role models, mentors, and or financial help in any way.
I did a column on former Steelers defensive back Judge Dwayne Woodruff and his wife Joy’s work in their mentoring program as well as his work to help the kids in the juvenile court system get out and stay out. Also most people in Pittsburgh know the work of Charlie Batch. But why are we only talking about so few; where are the others?
Ike Taylor recently had a “Shop With A Jock” out in Robinson Township. Now I wonder how many poor kids could make it way out there. Why not gear these giveaways to stores closer to the low income Black communities that also hire Black folks, and have a food give away or Shop With A Jock, by paying for people’s groceries for the holidays.
You look at the kind of money these athletes and entertainers make. Minimum wage is $300,000 to $500,000 in the NFL and NBA with most making millions.
I’m not just talking about stop the violence programs. I’m not just talking about toy drives or Thanksgiving dinners for the poor. I’m talking about something that’s lasting.
There are thousands of young Black kids struggling to make it through college for the lack of funds, and it’s going to get worse if the GOP have their way in the upcoming funding cuts. Why not a fund to help these kids through scholarships for low and middle income students? Why not contribute to the Pittsburgh Promise, funds to after school tutoring programs and mentoring programs or programs in which athletes, entertainers and other professionals talk to students about the importance of an education?
Our public schools need to become more involved in working with the pro teams, corporations and entertainers to get more of this.
We have four prominent entertainers from Pittsburgh in George Benson, Bill Nunn II, Tamara Tunie, and Lammond Rucker, who come home from time to time to spearhead certain projects. However, we need to see more of them and need them to become more active in helping others move forward in college or after college, while helping open doors for them. The August Wilson Center for African American Culture would be a perfect venture. It needs funds, and if these stars were involved in the programs, it would bring more people out as well as funding, and most of all help young people who may want to become entertainers.
Back to Woodley, congratulations on becoming a part of the solution to the many problems facing the Black community. Now if you can just get some of your teammates to commit themselves or their money to something for the kids instead of all that bling bling, we can turn the lives of so many Black kids around, one at a time.
(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)