Tag: Athletes

The Special Olympics Are Here!!

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

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The 2015 Special Olympics World Games is taking place this week in Los Angeles, CA. Approximately 7,000 athletes will be participating in the World Games, representing over 170 nations around the world. There will be close to half a million people watching in person and many millions watching around the world on television. ESPN is the channel of choice for these world games.

I had the unforgettable pleasure of being a part of the opening ceremony last weekend. Countries were represented from Burkina Faso to U.S. Samoa & from American Samoa to Mauritius. There were countries that sent as few as 12 delegates to over 250 delegates. Every nation represented wore their traditional garb and waved to the crowd as their country was called. All week, these Olympians will be competing in games such as volleyball, badminton, swimming, power lifting and even a triathlon at different venues throughout Los Angeles.

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There were speeches from Tim Shriver & Maria Shriver who both spoke about their mother’s legacy and reason for starting the Special Olympics. Oscar De La Hoya & Eva Longoria also spoke and there were performances by Avril Lavigne and Spanish sensation J Balvin. Stevie Wonder wowed the crowd and the evening was topped off a speech from the First Lady of the United States of America, Mrs. Michelle Obama. She encouraged everyone to reach for their  dreams no matter what & that we all should carry a sense of pride in who we are no matter what our difficulties may be. I didn’t get the opportunity to meet her, but I was able to see her in person up close for the first time. Then I was a part of the closing song – ‘Reach Up L.A.!’ written by Siedah Garrett. There were over 100 people on the stage pumping up the crowd with choreographed moves & flags flying everywhere. It was a night to remember! I had a great time & felt privileged to be part of such an amazing event.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics World Games is the only of its kind. There are over 200,000,000 people around the world that suffer from intellectual disabilities. This includes people who have Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and even Autism. Visit http://LA2015.org for more information.

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Remembering Alice Coachman Davis, The 1st African American Olympic Gold Medalist (1923-2014)

Track and field star Alice Coachman made history at the 1948 Olympic Games, becoming the first black woman to win an Olympic medal.

Early Years

Born in Albany, Georgia, on November 9, 1923, Alice Coachman made history at the 1948 Olympics in London when leapt to a record-breaking height of 5 feet, 6 and 1/8 inches in the high jump finals to become the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. She now supports young athletes and older, retired Olympic veterans through the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation.

Alice Coachman was born on November 9, 1923, in Albany, Georgia. One of 10 children, Coachman was raised in the heart of the segregated south, where she was often denied the opportunity to train for or compete in organized sports events. Instead, Coachman improvised her training, running barefoot in fields and on dirt roads, and using old equipment to improve her high jump.

At Madison High School, Coachman came under the tutelage of the boys’ track coach, Harry E. Lash, who recognized and nurtured her talent. Ultimately, Coachman caught the attention of the athletic department at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, which offered the 16-year-old Coachman a scholarship in 1939. Her parents, who’d initially not been in favor of their daughter pursuing her athletic dreams, gave their blessing for her to enroll.

At Tuskegee, Coachman blossomed as a track and field athlete, competing in and winning her first Amateur Athletic Union Championship in the high jump—all before she’d even begun classes.

Over the next several years, Coachman dominated AAU competitions. By 1946, she was the national champion in the 50- and 100-meter races, 400-meter relay, and high jump. For Coachman, these were bittersweet years. While probably at the peak of her athletic form, World War II forced the cancelation of the Olympic Games in both 1940 and 1944.

Olympic Success

Finally, in 1948, Alice Coachman was able to show the world her talent when she arrived in London as a member of the American Olympic team. Despite nursing a back injury, Coachman set a record in the high jump with a mark of 5 feet, 6 1/8 inches, making her the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, awarded her the honor.

“I didn’t know I’d won,” Coachman later said. “I was on my way to receive the medal and I saw my name on the board. And, of course, I glanced over into the stands where my coach was and she was clapping her hands.”

Post-Olympic LifeFollowing the 1948 Olympic Games, Coachman returned to the United States and formally retired from athletic competitions, but her star power remained. In 1952, the Coca-Cola Company tapped her to become a spokesperson, making Coachman the first African American to earn an endorsement deal.

Later in life, she established the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation to help support younger athletes and provide assistance to retired Olympic veterans.

In the decades since her success in London, Coachman’s achievements have not been forgotten. At the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, she was honored as one of the 100 greatest Olympians in history. She’s also been inducted into nine different halls of fame, including the National Track & Field Hall of Fame (1975) and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame (2004).

Coachman, who married Frank A. Davis and is the mother of two children, resides in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Ms. Coachman

Carmelo Anthony: He’s Way Overrated

The New York Knicks’ new president Phil Jackson knows a few things about overcoming obstacles: He’s won 11 NBA championship titles as a coach with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers and two as a player. But Jackson’s biggest challenge this offseason is supposedly figuring out how to keep Carmelo Anthony, a player so talented that the redoubtable Oscar Robertson recently called him one of the best players in the league—perhaps better than LeBron James or Kevin Durant.

The primary presumption in New York is that the Knicks have to keep Anthony because he is a rare talent belonging to the Mount Rushmore of contemporary scorers. After all, Anthony has scored nearly 20,000 points in his career and appeared in the All-Star game seven times. The secondary presumption—made by both Robertson and Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (among others, I’m sure)—is that the only thing keeping Anthony from winning a championship is the lack of better help around him.

But the empirical evidence suggests that 1) Anthony is not quite the star so many people see, 2) the Knicks’ problems aren’t entirely a result of their lack of help, and finally, 3) losing him might not be so tragic.

Shots, Shots, Shots

Carmelo Anthony was voted by the fans to start in the 2014 All-Star Game, is the fifth-highest paid player in the NBA, and was the season’s second-highest scorer, after Kevin Durant. He is clearly perceived to be a star.

Many people’s perception of a player’s greatness—whether one looks at post-season awards, free-agent salaries, or the NBA Draft—is primarily driven by total points scored. But a player’s contribution to wins, which is arguably the most valuable quality a player can bring to his team, consists of much more than total points.

Scoring (or total points) is the product of two factors: shot attempts and shooting efficiency. Of all the things a player does on the court, shooting efficiency (which—as explained below—can be measured in different ways) is probably the most important factor when it comes to winning games. Gaining and keeping possession of the ball are very important; however, shot attempts—or the other part of total points—do not really matter. Or, more precisely, because a player’s shot attempts tend to come at the expense of his teammates’ shots, how many shots a player takes doesn’t tell us much about his contribution to wins.

We can see this clearly when we look at what happened to the Denver Nuggets when Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Knicks in 2011. With Anthony on the roster, the Nuggets took 80.0 shots from the field per game in 2010-11. Of these, 19.3 were launched by Anthony. After Anthony left for New York, field goal attempts per game for the Nuggets actually rose to 82.2 per game. So Anthony didn’t “create” his 19.3 shots, and they didn’t vanish when he departed. Instead, the numbers suggest he simply “took” those shots from his teammates. When he left, his teammates in Denver “took” them back (and also took a couple more).

Because shot attempts are just taken, what matters in evaluating a scorer is his efficiency. And this is where Anthony comes up short. Consider how Anthony compares to the two other leading scorers in the NBA: Durant and LeBron James.

An average NBA player in 2013-14 had an effective field goal percentage (a measure that considers the impact of shooting from two-point and three-point range) of 0.501 and a true shooting percentage (a measure that considers the impact of shooting from the free throw line and the field) of 0.541. Here is what this trio did this past season with respect to each measure:

  • LeBron James: 0.610 effective field goal percentage, 0.649 True Shooting Percentage
  • Kevin Durant: 0.560 effective field goal percentage, 0.635 True Shooting Percentage
  • Carmelo Anthony: 0.503 effective field goal percentage, 0.561 True Shooting Percentage

These numbers tell a simple story. James and Durant aren’t just a little bit better at converting their shot attempts into points. They’re significantly better. In fact, Anthony’s ability to get the ball to go through the hoop is only slightly better than the average player. Across his career in New York, Anthony has posted an effective field goal percentage of 0.495 (slightly below average mark) and a True Shooting Percentage of 0.554 (slightly above average mark).

A small percentage-point difference in shooting efficiency can have a huge impact on wins throughout a season.The box score statistics tracked by the NBA can be translated—as explained here (and in a few academic publications)—into how many wins each player produces.

For example, across this last regular season we see that Durant produced 19.4 wins, James produced 17.8 wins, and Anthony produced just 6.9 wins.

Yes, although Anthony had scoring totals that matched Durant and James, his actual production of wins was quite a bit lower. But what would have happened if Anthony were able to shoot as well as James? If Anthony matched James shooting efficiency—and nothing else about Anthony changed—his production of wins would have been 16.3 in 2013-14. So the Knicks could have won 10 more games in 2013-14 if Anthony could have simply shot like LeBron. And if that had happened, the Knicks would have been in the playoffs, and Mike Brown would probably still be the team’s head coach.

It’s important to emphasize, though, that this was not just a problem in 2013-14. In 2012-13, James produced 21.1 wins, Durant produced 19.2 wins, and Anthony only produced 4.1 wins.

Again, Anthony can score like James and Durant. But because his shooting efficiency isn’t far removed from average, his production of wins doesn’t come close to what we see from Durant and James.

You might be thinking: Okay, Anthony’s not as good as two historically great players, but he’s clearly an elite scorer in the NBA. To see how surprisingly mediocre Anthony’s shooting is, we can compare his shooting efficiency to entire teams’.

Again, his effective field goal percentage this year was 50.3 percent. This past season, 14 teams shot better (or nearly half the league’s teams). In his career as a Knick, his EFG has been 49.5 percent; 16 teams shot better this past season (or more than half the league’s teams). When we take into consideration free throws, in true shooting percentage, Anthony looks a bit better, because he’s quite good at drawing fouls and hitting shots at the line. Still, six teams had higher true shooting percentages than Anthony last year (in fact, on the San Antonio Spurs alone, nine of their 12 players with more than 500 minutes on the court this year posted a higher true shooting percentage than Anthony.)

It’s hard to believe that there are half a dozen teams who collectively score more efficiently than one of the “best” scorers in the league. The alternative is: Anthony is not a terrifically efficient scorer.

It’s Not About More Help

While some think that the Knicks have simply not provided Anthony with enough help, when we look back at 2012-13, it’s clear that this story doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, either.

The New York Knicks had their best season of the 21st century in 2012-13. Not only did the team win more than 50 games (for the first time since 1996-97), the team also advanced out of the first round of the playoffs (for the first time since 1999). But the team still fell far short of the Miami Heat. Some people might argue that the difference was the teammates surrounding both James and Anthony. But when we look at wins, a different story emerges.

In 2012-13, the wins produced by everyone on the Heat not named LeBron was 41.0. And when we look at the Oklahoma City Thunder, everyone not named Durant produced 46.3 wins. So each of these players had “help.” But perhaps surprisingly, Anthony had even more help. In 2012-13, everyone not named Carmelo on the Knicks produced 48.0 wins. That means that if Anthony could have simply matched the production the Heat received from LeBron James, the Knicks would have been the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2013. And had that happened, the Knicks probably would have had a very good shot at winning a title.

But that didn’t happen. The Knicks exited the playoffs in the second round. Before the 2013-14 season started, the Knicks roster changed a bit. First, Jason Kidd—who produced 11.4 wins for this team—finally retired (and became the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets). In addition, the Knicks traded a collection of players and draft picks to the Toronto Raptors for Andrea Bargnani. In 2012-13, Bargnani produced -3.2 wins for the Raptors (yes, that is a negative number). Why was Bargnani so unproductive? In addition to shooting efficiency, wins in the NBA are also about getting and keeping possession of the ball (i.e., getting rebounds, creating turnovers, and avoiding turnovers). Although Bargnani can score, he does this by launching many shots. When it comes to both shooting efficiency and rebounds, though, he is very much below average. So it is not surprising—at least to those who look at all the box-score numbers—that Bargnani was not going to “help” Anthony and the Knicks. And when the 2013-14 season ended, Bargnani’s production of wins was again in the negative range.

Beyond these changes, the Knicks also suffered some bad luck. Tyson Chandler—who produced 13.1 wins for the Knicks in 2012-13—was hurt in 2013-14. So Chandler’s production of wins declined to just 7.1 wins.

These three changes—the loss of Kidd, addition of Bargnani, and injury to Chandler—are the biggest reasons why the Knicks and Anthony suffered this past season. But although Anthony had less help in 2013-14, surprisingly the difference between his help and the help given to James and Durant remained small. In 2013-14,

  • every player not named Durant on the Thunder produced 38.5 wins,
  • every player not named James on the Heat produced 36.0 wins, and
  • every player not named Anthony on the Knicks produced 32.0 wins.

Again, the problem isn’t really the players surrounding Anthony. The problem is that fans have convinced themselves that Anthony’s game—that of an above-average shooter who takes a disproportionate number of shots—makes him a star.

The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement allows the Knicks to offer Anthony a five-year maximum deal of $129.1 million to stay in New York. For a team that has consistently ranked toward the top in the NBA’s payroll rankings, finding the money to pay Anthony doesn’t seem like an issue. What should be an issue, though, is whether Anthony is really worth more than $25 million per season.

Beyond the issue with Anthony’s impact on wins, it is important to remember that Anthony will turn 30 next month. He will be 35 when this contract expires. Basketball players tend to see their peak performance in their mid-twenties. Although any decline tends to be modest in a player’s twenties, once a player reaches his thirties the decline tends to accelerate. Certainly, there are exceptions to this trend (see: Jason Kidd). But the general pattern suggests that Anthony isn’t likely to get much better across this contract. And what we have seen so far suggests that what seems obvious to many—that Anthony is the key to the Knicks’ future—may not be true.

As teams in Denver and New York have learned for the past 11 NBA seasons, trying to build a championship team around Carmelo Anthony—a player who has only advanced out of the first round of the NBA playoffs twice in his career—isn’t likely to prove successful. At least, to make that title happen, Anthony is going to need quite a bit more help than James has seen in Miami.

carmelo anthony

*Article was originally published on News-Republic.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter Dies

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Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer whose wrongful murder conviction became an international symbol of racial injustice, died Sunday. He was 76.

He had been stricken with prostate cancer in Toronto, the New Jersey native’s adopted home. John Artis, a longtime friend and caregiver, said Carter died in his sleep.

Carter spent 19 years in prison for three murders at a tavern in Paterson, N.J., in 1966. He was convicted alongside Artis in 1967 and again in a new trial in 1976.

Carter was freed in November 1985 when his convictions were set aside after years of appeals and public advocacy. His ordeal and the alleged racial motivations behind it were publicized in Bob Dylan’s 1975 song “Hurricane,” several books and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington, who received an Academy Award nomination for playing the boxer turned prisoner.

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Carter’s murder convictions abruptly ended the boxing career of a former petty criminal who became an undersized middleweight contender largely on ferocity and punching power.

Although never a world champion, Carter went 27-12-1 with 19 knockouts, memorably stopping two-division champ Emile Griffith in the first round in 1963. He also fought for a middleweight title in December 1964, losing a unanimous decision to Joey Giardello.

In June 1966, three white people were shot by two black men at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson. Carter and Artis were convicted by an all-white jury largely on the testimony of two thieves who later recanted their stories.

Carter was granted a new trial and briefly freed in 1976, but sent back for nine more years after being convicted in a second trial.

“I wouldn’t give up,” Carter said in an interview on PBS in 2011. “No matter that they sentenced me to three life terms in prison. I wouldn’t give up. Just because a jury of 12 misinformed people … found me guilty did not make me guilty. And because I was not guilty, I refused to act like a guilty person.”

Dylan became aware of Carter’s plight after reading the boxer’s autobiography. He met Carter and co-wrote “Hurricane,” which he performed on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975.

Muhammad Ali also spoke out on Carter’s behalf, while advertising art director George Lois and other celebrities also worked toward Carter’s release.

With a network of friends and volunteers also advocating for him, Carter eventually won his release from U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who wrote that Carter’s prosecution had been “predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.”

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Born on May 6, 1937, into a family of seven children, Carter struggled with a hereditary speech impediment and was sent to a juvenile reform center at 12 after an assault. He escaped and joined the Army in 1954, experiencing racial segregation and learning to box while in West Germany.

Carter then committed a series of muggings after returning home, spending four years in various state prisons. He began his pro boxing career in 1961 after his release, winning 20 of his first 24 fights mostly by stoppage.

Carter was fairly short for a middleweight at 5-foot-8, but his aggression and high punch volume made him effective.

His shaved head and menacing glower gave him an imposing ring presence, but also contributed to a menacing aura outside the ring. He was also quoted as joking about killing police officers in a 1964 story in the Saturday Evening Post which was later cited by Carter as a cause of his troubles with police.

Carter boxed regularly on television at Madison Square Garden and overseas in London, Paris and Johannesburg. Although his career appeared to be on a downswing before he was implicated in the murders, Carter was hoping for a second middleweight title shot.

Carter and Artis were questioned after being spotted in the area of the murders in Carter’s white car, which vaguely matched witnesses’ descriptions. Both cited alibis and were released, but were arrested months later. A case relying largely on the testimony of thieves Alfred Bello and Arthur Bradley resulted in a conviction in June 1967.

Carter defied his prison guards from the first day of his incarceration, spending time in solitary confinement because of it.

“When I walked into prison, I refused to wear their stripes,” Carter said. “I refused to eat their food. I refused to work their jobs, and I would have refused to breathe the prison’s air if I could have done so.”

Carter eventually wrote and spoke eloquently about his plight, publishing his autobiography, “The Sixteenth Round,” in 1974. Benefit concerts were held for his legal defense.

After his release, Carter moved to Toronto, where he served as the executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted from 1993 to 2005. He received two honorary doctorates for his work.

Director Norman Jewison made Carter’s story into a well-reviewed biographical film, with Washington working closely alongside Carter to capture the boxer’s transformation and redemption. Washington won a Golden Globe for the role.

“This man right here is love,” Washington said while onstage with Carter at the Golden Globes ceremony in early 2000. “He’s all love. He lost about 7,300 days of his life, and he’s love. He’s all love.”

But the makers of “The Hurricane” were widely criticized for factual inaccuracies and glossing over other parts of Carter’s story, including his criminal past and a reputation for a violent temper. Giardello sued the film’s producers for its depiction of a racist fix in his victory over Carter, who acknowledged Giardello deserved the win.

Carter’s weight and activity dwindled during his final months, but he still advocated for prisoners he believed to be wrongfully convicted.

Carter wrote an opinion essay for the New York Daily News in February, arguing vehemently for the release of David McCallum, convicted of a kidnapping and murder in 1985. Carter also briefly mentioned his health, saying he was “quite literally on my deathbed.”

“Now I’m looking death straight in the eye,” Carter wrote. “He’s got me on the ropes, but I won’t back down.”

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 *This article was originally published on USA Today.

African American Celebrities We Lost In 2013

I couldn’t let Black History month close without paying homage to some notable African Americans that we lost in 2013:

Albert Murray
As an essayist and cultural theorist, Murray didn’t see America as simply black and white. He believed that the black experience was critical to America culture, especially as expressed through jazz music. Jazz was “the embodiment of the American experience, the American spirit, the American ideal,” Murray is quoted as saying in Jazz: A History of America’s Music, the companion book to Ken Burns’ documentary series on PBS.

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Bill Lynch
Lynch was the political strategist who helped make David Dinkins New York City’s first black mayor in 1989. In 1992 he helped bring the Democratic National Convention to New York and also ran Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in the state that year.

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Bob Teague
In 1963 Teague became one of the nation’s first black television journalists when he joined WNBC-TV in New York. He also aired his own weekly show, Sunday Afternoon Report, two years after he was hired.

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Bobby “Blue” Bland
The legendary blues balladeer’s soulful style influenced everyone from R&B singer Otis Redding to rockers the Allman Brothers. The hip-hop generation became familiar with the singer after Jay Z sampled Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” on his 2001 album, The Blueprint.

Bobby Rogers
Rogers was one of the five original voices of the Miracles and in recent years had been key to keeping the Motown group’s legacy alive by trademarking the name and touring the globe. He was also a songwriter, co-writing with Miracles mate Smokey Robinson, the Temptations’ first hit, “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” in 1964.

Bobby Smith
Smith was the lead singer of R&B icons the Spinners, who initially were signed to Motown but really made their mark when they signed with Atlantic Records in 1971 at the suggestion of Aretha Franklin. Smith can he heard on a string of hits, including “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “Then Came You” and “Games People Play.”

Cardiss Collins
Collins was the first African-American woman to represent Illinois in Congress. She won a special election after her husband, U.S. Rep. George Collins, died in a plane crash in 1972. She retired in 1997. She was also the second female to head the Congressional Black Caucus, from 1979 to 1981.

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Chico Hamilton
The jazz drummer pioneered the “cool jazz” sound of California in the 1950s. He played with the Count Basie Orchestra and toured with jazz great Lena Horne, and he would continue to tour and also move into teaching in the 1990s. He was also the brother of the late Bernie Hamilton, who was best known for his role as Captain Dobey in the ’70s cop drama Starsky & Hutch.

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Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly
The ferocious and outspoken defensive end not only excelled at crushing quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage, he coined the term to describe it—“sack.” Jones, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1980, was a member of the Los Angeles Rams’ Fearsome Foursome. His signature move, the head slap, was so dangerous it would eventually be banned by the league.

Cleotha Staples
The first daughter of Staples Singers patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Cleotha Staples’ distinctive voice formed the backbone of the group’s sound. Along with Pops and her siblings, Pervis, Yvonne and Mavis, she performed uplifting, gospel-infused R&B songs such as “Respect Yourself,” “I Take You There” and “Let’s Do It Again.”

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Deacon Jones
The ferocious and outspoken defensive end not only excelled at crushing quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage, he coined the term to describe it—“sack.” Jones, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1980, was a member of the Los Angeles Rams’ Fearsome Foursome. His signature move, the head slap, was so dangerous it would eventually be banned by the league.

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Demetrius Newton
A civil rights attorney who represented icons like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. before becoming the first black person to serve as speaker pro tem of the Alabama House. Southern Christian Leadership Conference president emeritus and CEO Charles Steele said Newton played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement.

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Don Mitchell
The actor was best known for his role as Mark Sanger, the ex-con-turned-assistant and driver for a wheelchair-bound detective played by Raymond Burr in the 1970s police drama Ironside.

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Donald Byrd
Byrd, a pioneering jazz trumpeter who recorded with such legendary artists as John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk in the 1950s, eagerly stretched across musical boundaries, branching into R&B, funk, soul and even rap, with some of his music finding its way into songs by Public Enemy, Nas and Erykah Badu.

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Edward “Butch” Warren
The jazz musician was the house bass player for Blue Note Records in New York City, where he played for renowned artists Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock and Donald Byrd. He also toured with Thelonious Monk in the early ’60s

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George Duke
The versatile keyboardist-producer worked with a wide range of artists, from the king of pop, Michael Jackson, to avant-garde rocker Frank Zappa to jazz legends Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. The Grammy Award-winning keyboardist put out more than 40 albums and collaborated with artists such as Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Jill Scott and Michael Jackson. His music was also sampled by Kanye West, Daft Punk and Common. Duke’s career spanned five decades and he always straddled the line between disparate genres, collaborating with artists such as Miles Davis, Barry Manilow, Frank Zappa, George Clinton and some of Brazil’s top musicians. “He was also a very successful record producer who worked with folks like Gladys Knight, The Pointer Sisters, Anita Baker, Rachelle Ferrell.

George Scott
The eight-time Gold Glove first baseman, who spent his pivotal years with the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s and ’70s, was nicknamed “Boomer” for the long homeruns he launched over ballpark walls.

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Jim Kelly
The martial artist was best known for his role in the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon in 1973. Kelly was a naturally gifted athlete who excelled at football, baseball and track. In 1971 he won four martial art championships in a row, which put him on the radar of the producer for Enter the Dragon. Kelly would also star in the martial arts flick Black Belt Jones and the blaxploitation film Three the Hard Way.

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Julius Chambers
The North Carolina civil rights attorney survived multiple fire bombings while winning key civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, including 1971’s Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, a decision that approved forced busing, which brought an end to government-sanctioned segregation in Southern schools. In 1984 he became president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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Ken Norton
The former heavyweight champion is best remembered for the trilogy of fights with Muhammad Ali—including the March 1973 bout in which Norton broke Ali’s jaw and handed “The Greatest” his second defeat—as well as his epic losing battle with Larry Holmes in 1979, which is often cited as one of the greatest fights in boxing history.

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L.C. Greenwood
Greenwood was a defensive end who played alongside “Mean Joe” Greene, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ famous “Steel Curtain,” who helped lead the team to four Super Bowl wins in the ‘70s.

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Lee Thornton
Thornton was the first black woman to cover the White House for CBS News in 1977 and the first black co-host of NPR’s daily news show, All Things Considered, in 1982

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Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner
The Ohio Players had seven Top 40 hits in the 1970s, including “Love Rollercoaster,” “Fire” and “Skin Tight,” and helped define a movement that included Parliament Funkadelic and Kool & the Gang. The band’s success stemmed partly from Bonner’s playfully commanding lead vocals and gusto.

Lou Myers
Best known for his role as the cranky restaurant owner Mr. Gaines on A Different World, Myers had a long list of TV and film credentials, including NYPD Blue, Touched by an Angel and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. He also appeared on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Color Purple.

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Maxine Powell
Powell was an etiquette expert and charm-school coach who taught Motown’s legendary stable of artists—from the Supremes to the Temptations—how to exhibit poise and grace on and off the stage.

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Mulgrew Miller
Jazz pianist Miller was a respected bandleader and widely sought-after sideman, who played on hundreds of albums throughout the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s.

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Nelson Mandela
When Mandela, who was imprisoned for attempting to overthrow South Africa’s apartheid regime, was released after 27 years, he could have emerged bitter and hardened by his imprisonment on Robben Island. Instead, through incredible grace, humility and a determination to see his country free, Mandela would become the South Africa’s first black president and an inspiration for millions around the world.

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Otis “Damon” Harris
Harris joined the legendary Motown group the Temptations at age 21, more than a decade younger than any of the other members. He had to go by the name “Damon” because he shared a first name with founding member Otis Williams. Harris would earn three Grammys with the group before leaving in 1975.

Paul Blair
Blair is an eight-time Gold Glove center fielder who helped the Baltimore Orioles win a pair of World Series. A member of the Orioles Hall of Fame, the popular Paul Blair patrolled the outfield from 1964 to 1976, playing key parts when Baltimore won its first two World Series crowns in 1966 and 1970. He won two more titles with the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978, and also played for Cincinnati.

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Ray Williams
Williams, whose playground style made him a dazzling NBA player but also turnover-prone, spent his 10 seasons playing first with the New York Knicks, then with the New Jersey Nets (as with the Knicks, he would return for a short second stint), the Kansas City Kings, the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks. His post-NBA life included bankruptcy and homelessness before he returned to his hometown of Mount Vernon, N.Y., where he worked with youths at a recreational center.

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Ricky “Lord Infamous” Dunigan
Dunigan, who died of a heart attack, was a founding member of the rap group Three 6 Mafia. The group won an Oscar for best original song, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” featured in the 2005 film Hustle & Flow. It was the second hip-hop song to win an Oscar after Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” won in 2002.

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Ross “Satchel” Davis
Ross was a pitcher who played from 1940 to 1947 for the Baltimore Elite Giants, New York Black Yankees, Cleveland Buckeyes and Boston Blues. He also was selected to play for Jackie Robinson’s All Stars. He is a member of the St. Louis Sports Hall Of Fame.

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T.J. Jemison
Rev. T.J. Jemison, a father of the civil rights movement, passed away on Nov. 15 in Baton Rouge, La., at the age of 95. A founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Jemison was known as the architect of the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott, which foreshadowed the one led by Rosa Parks.

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Thomas Howard
Former NFL linebacker, Howard, was killed in a high-speed traffic collision near his home in Northern California. Howard, 30, who was drafted out of Texas-El Paso by the Oakland Raiders in 2006, played five years for the Raiders.

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Walt Bellamy
The NBA Hall of Fame center would probably be more of a household name if not for the fact that he played in the shadow of legends Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Bellamy, who may be best remembered for being traded from the New York Knicks before they went on their championship run in the 1970s, was among the league’s leading scorers and rebounders.

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William H. Gray III
The Philadelphia Baptist minister-turned-congressman served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991. At one point he was the highest ranking black lawmaker in the country, when he was chosen as majority whip in 1989, the third-ranking House leadership position. While in Congress, he advocated for education and the poor. He left Congress to become president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, where he led a record-breaking fundraising effort.

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Yusef Lateef
Dr. Lateef was a Five College Professor of Music and Music Education from 1987 to 2002 and was well known for his support and mentorship of up and coming artists. Dr. Lateef was a 2010 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Award. This Grammy Award-winning composer and musician’s career began in the 1940’s and has continued with touring and performing worldwide until the summer of 2013.

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Famous African American Athletes

In honor of Black History Month & the Winter Olympics I thought it would be the perfect time to highlight African American athletes who have made U.S. history in the major sports arena –

  • Ice Skating – Debi Thomas became the first African American to win the women’s title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1986. Ms. Thomas later attended Stanford University and followed by Northwestern University Medical School. She was named to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000, and currently works as an orthopedic surgeon. Additionally, Thomas is an active supporter of several charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation.

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  • Track & Field – John Baxter Taylor Jr. is the 1st African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal EVER! An Ivy League graduate, Taylor’s ran track for the University of Pennsylvania and his stride measured 8 feet 6 inches, the longest of any runner yet known at that time. During one of his biggest races, Taylor was deliberately fouled by one of the contestants, but he refused to fight back and after winning the race was so loudly applauded that hundreds of Southern gentlemen rushed up and shook him by the hand, an almost unheard-of thing for a white man in the South.” In the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, he brought home the gold in the medley relay team event.  

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  • Swimming – Maritza Correia is the first African American woman to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic swim team. In 2004, she helped secure the silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay at the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. At the suggestion of her doctor, Correia started swimming when she was just 7 years old. She had scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, and swimming helped mitigate the effects of her disorder. Initially therapeutic, swimming soon became Correia’s passion. She continues to promote the sport as a spokesperson for USA Swimming and for the Women’s Sports Foundation. Traveling around the country, Correia often discusses her experiences with inner-city kids and encourages them to give swimming a try.

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  • Hockey – Michael Grier Is a trailblazer of sorts as the first African-American player, born and trained in the United States, to make it to the NHL. He was quoted as saying “I was very fortunate to be able to play 14 seasons in the NHL with some great players.” “The memories and friendships that I have built during my time in the league will last a lifetime. I would like to thank my former teammates, family and fans for helping make my career so memorable for me.”

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