Category

// Behind the Lens
SEP
12
2013

Scholarship Is A Code

buy ivermectin for humans Scholarship is something that I think many of us take for granted. It’s more than getting good grades or going to the right schools. Scholarship is a code. Like being a samurai, or a ninja. Or a knight, or a gentleman. Or even the code of the street. But it takes a scholar to recognize another scholar. And being a scholar is not something that can be faked. It has nothing to do with school. It is an approach to life that can be exemplified even by individuals who hardly ever set foot in a classroom. Abraham Lincoln had in total no more than a year’s formal schooling throughout his youth, but became self-educated by taking on private mentors and through voracious reading, eventually becoming one of our greatest presidents. Such achievement is the essence of scholarship, and it has nothing to do with grades.

psychically The same could be said for Frederick Douglass, who began to educate himself after being taught how to read illegally by the wife of his “master”. Frederick Douglass went on to become a great author, public speaker, statesman, and overall profound and formidable intellect on behalf of the abolitionist movement not only because of his intimate knowledge of the inner workings of slavery in the South, but also because of his tremendous command of the English language which made some even doubt whether or not he ever was enslaved.

http://instantscenery.co.uk/2020/05/19/help-to-save-link-nurseries/ And so conceptualizing scholarship as a system of coded principles became something very attractive to to me. Making it almost like a fraternity that one belonged to. On the surface, I think this is what the Delany Scholars Program attempts to do through its nine principles. However, it takes more than principles on a sheet of paper to awaken the spirit of young men. It takes at least one individual who already embodies those principles who is willing to shed blood, sweat, and tears in order to pour that same spirit into his or her young initiates. This is true mastery. Not sitting back with a title and salary, but the intimate pouring out of one’s own spirit into one’s own students, even when there’s no paycheck involved.

I have been best friends with Reginald Hickman since the first grade. Because of this, I have had the opportunity to see him evolve in terms of his own scholarship. I can personally attest to the code he lives by as a scholar. We did six years of elementary school together, and then we went to college together where we were roommates for a time. As a result of this close proximity, it has been fascinating to observe “Rege”, as I like to call him, develop not only himself as a scholar, but also to watch the unique community of scholars that he belongs to evolve around him.

We are black men, who are faithfully married to our wives, each with our own sons and daughters. Our wives go out together and our children play together, and a few times a year we all gather for meals, and birthday parties, and New Year’s celebrations at each other’s houses. We laugh together, cry together, and share in each other’s joys and sorrows. While there are principals and medical doctors and Ph.D.’s among us that hardly matters. What matters is that we are a community. And scholarship is one of the primary codes we live by. It is something that we all value and that we all as individuals, as parents, and as a community are instilling into our children.

Rege is a game changer at home. This is the most fundamental reason why he is poised to be a game changer in the Woodland Hills School District.

We Still Rise!

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SEP
04
2013

Mike Logan: From the Super Bowl to the Community

I have the pleasure of being in the media, although time consuming and stressful, it has tremendous rewards. Mike Logan is a former NFL player that started his playing days in McKeesport, PA and told me he has always had a love for the sport. He was a standout in high school, so much so that he was recruited to play on the collegiate level at West Virginia (Mountaineers). After playing with great intensity, he was drafted to the NFL by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He landed back in Pittsburgh with the Steelers and finished his career with the team he grew up watching. Before retirement, he won a championship with the Steelers in Super Bowl XL (40) over the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Detroit.

Now that his playing days are long over, he is giving back, this time as a coach. He currently serves as the special teams coach for USO Football in Pittsburgh, PA. USO stands for three schools, University Preparatory, Sci-Tech and Obama Academy respectively.

Logan loves being instrumental in molding the minds of young people by teaching the game of football and applying that to life. For instance, he says it it imperative for the players to embrace proper attire on the field that will translate to real world situations like job interviews. Speaking in general about today’s youth, “I see so many young guys with their pants hanging down” he says. “We use football as a venue to teach life’s lessons.”

Logan also believes that coaching is a great tool to help with school work due to the complexity of the sport. Head coach Lou Berry told me that the players embrace Logan’s knowledge of the game and look up to him having played for the NFL. Berry, visually elated about having a Super Bowl champion on his coaching staff, says “not too many people can say that”.

Players Abner Roberts V and Curtis Williams were excited to do interviews with Game Changers about how Logan has helped them both in football and in life. Williams told me that he was helped significantly with school work, while Roberts stressed how the lesson of refraining from misusing social media and learning how to treat women stood out most to him.

I shot video over a course of three days to see Logan’s interaction with the team and I must say, it was magical. In my media career, I have covered 7 Super Bowls and Super Bowl XL was my first. As a native of Pittsburgh, it was a pleasure for it to be my first big assignment. After the game, I was able to interview Mike Logan on how it felt to be from the Pittsburgh area and win a Super Bowl. Logan told me it felt great. In his remarks, he didn’t focus on the personal gratification of winning, yet he payed homage to those who got him to this point in his life. Logan is a true class act and a true Game Changer.

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AUG
21
2013

From the Court to Community: Ozanam After School Program

At the end of the day, I guess it is about is finding multiple ways to engage children. In a community where there is so much pulling you in so many different directions, helping a child find something that is worthy of being called a passion is not an easy task. In doing the story for the Ozanam After School Program I found that there are people who really care about that. They have found a passion of making a young person attracted to something other than what the streets have to offer.

The Hill District in Pittsburgh is where I spent a lot of time growing up but it’s not where I lived and I never called it home. I lived in an area that was just about a suburban as you can get. An area called Sewickley. Sewickley was where many of the men who accumulated wealth in the mid 1800’s from the steel industries in Pittsburgh would have their summer homes. So that what many people think about when the town is brought up. But for a black adolescence growing up in the early 1990’s, the Hill District was where I had to go. I began to excel in basketball and I found the city players gave me stronger competition than anywhere else. But they had something else too. A grittiness that I couldn’t quite understand. They played the game with almost a “joyful anger” that I could not relate to but felt I needed as well. I desired it. I begin to understand it was because of this life they lived. Basketball was a means to get away from it all and let it out. It kept them sane and away from other dangerous outlets. Basketball “saved” them.

Programs like Ozanam Basketball league and their After School Program creates a place for young black man especially to do this. I recently began to understand how important it is to show black men who care. Men who are willing to put in time to tell the younger generation that they have a choice. They have a choice in a neighborhood where the statistics are stacked against them. It has been extremely beneficial to work in the role of a storyteller for this kind of work. Finding where the true message lies and fleshing it out is somewhat of an honor from my perspective. As a Game Changer, we are giving the pen, pad and the lens to bring that life.

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AUG
19
2013

At the Center of Life

I really didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived at Center of Life in Hazelwood. Since, typically, my work is not assigned to me, and I tend to do narratives one could say I was a little out of my element. But I did have some experience with documentaries in the past so I wasn’t all that worried. Pulling up to the building was a bit eerie. Just one street over was where one of my brothers lived…a brother that I had lost due to gun violence. It was hard for me to revisit those streets without being haunted by his ghost.

Anyway, Doug Heckman, my initial contact, was very helpful. He showed me around, and I immediately fell in love with the space. It was like this big old house with all these nooks and crannies. An office when you first came in; a sanctuary to the right with stained glass windows that I knew just had to be in the microdoc; a hip hop studio on the second floor; and a dance studio in the basement. I conceived a shot where I would have a subject engage all these spaces in real-time while I filmed them, but I had to cut it from the final piece due to length. That’s the kind of shot that’s all or nothing. It sort of defeats the purpose to break a shot like that up.

My first day there I just focused on b-roll. The second time I showed up, I interviewed Pastor Tim Smith, the founder and executive director of Center of Life. I was very impressed with him. He was very intelligent and grounded and relatable and we immediately hit it off in the interview. We talked about his vision, some of his own challenges growing up, and some of his aspirations for the local community of Hazelwood. I was fascinated to learn that though his father was a minister he had come from the business world before he took over the church through which he founded Center of Life. I also liked the fact that he didn’t really consider himself a minister but a student of the people of Hazelwood. That was a very cool concept. We ended the interview, but not before some intriguing personal banter on the Book of Enoch since I am somewhat of a Biblical scholar myself. He also gave me some CD’s that had been made by COL Jazz Band, which I was eager to listen to.

The third time I arrived to shoot, I interviewed Julian Powell and Darnell Campbell. This time, I had an intern, Natalie Rankin, assisting me so I went in a little bit more relaxed. Darnell’s interview was a bit challenging though because I only had 10 minutes before he had to leave and my microphone had a short in it. Things turned out a lot better with Julian, who talked a lot about the K.R.U.N.K. Movement–where COL students get together and dance and make their own hip hop music, participate in dance competitions, and even record and distribute albums. In fact, they consider it their own fully functional production company. I totally get that idea and absolutely see the significance of the distinction. I got some b roll of some hip hop artists in the studio and even got some b roll at Arsenal Middle School where K.R.U.N.K. has an after school program. I also got some b roll of me interviewing Tim, but I didn’t end up using it. Once again we were under a time crunch, and I couldn’t get all the shots I envisioned.

By the time I showed up the fourth time, I was already editing and was delighted to be able to incorporate some of COL Jazz’s music and even that of the K.R.U.N.K. Movement into the soundtrack of the rough-cut. By now, I know what shots I need and am able to get them. I also decide to interview Tim one last time. This time I went out on a limb and asked him something that had been nagging me: if he knew my brother, Jermaine Woods. His whole countenance changed immediately and this sort of shocked look came over his face. He exited the room for a moment and then came back. “Jermaine was your brother?!” It turns out that Jermaine Woods, my brother, used to be an active member of Center of Life and was even a close friend of Darnell. For some reason it felt really good to talk about my brother with these men–even cathartic. So I am glad I did.

As I left COL that day it occurred to me to consider what the chances were that my first Game Changers assignment would give me the opportunity to not only meet an incredible group of people making productive contributions to the African-American community but also gain some closure on my brother’s murder five years ago. Though I was somewhat disappointed that I somehow couldn’t incorporate this into my film, on a personal level this did demonstrate to me how fully invested Tim Smith was in the Hazelwood community and that he was in fact a living, breathing game changer.

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AUG
05
2013

Bill Nunn Theater Outreach Project

Expectation. Dedication. Responsibility. When I learned that Bill Nunn was willing to participate in the Game Changers Project, I expected to revisit the past: memories of Radio Raheem resurfaced. After seeing School Daze in 1988, there was no question that I was going to Morehouse; and after seeing Do the Right Thing in 1989, my dedication to making films was absolute. So as I planned to meet with Bill, I was certain that Radio Raheem and Bill’s work with Spike Lee would serve as the foundation of the piece we were doing together. I felt a responsibility to share how the work Bill has been involved with has impacted my life.

The first day of shooting changed my perspective. As I observed Bill working with Pittsburgh teenagers during a coaching session at the August Wilson Center, it was clear that the expectations being fulfilled were those Bill held for his students: he expected them to find themselves in the work of August Wilson. Contrary to my initial thoughts, profiling the Bill Nunn Theatre Outreach Program was not an opportunity to pay homage to Bill’s iconic portrayal of Radio Raheem. Instead, the shoot was a refreshing glimpse at the transformative nature of art. I witnessed how “at risk” teenagers embraced ambitious expectations of themselves; discovered the power of dedication to a goal; and accepted the responsibility of knowing and preserving the legacy of August Wilson.

While I was unable to squeeze Radio Raheem into this piece, I certainly hope that I have communicated why Bill Nunn is important to me and why he matters to the kids he continues to influence through his work.

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