Knicks Celebrate Change on Day of Obama's Inauguration • Latino Sports

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Knicks Celebrate Change on Day of Obama's Inauguration

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New York, NY – While history was being made in Washington, DC with the inauguration of the first African American President Barack Obama, the New York Knicks and their Garden of Dreams Foundation did their part hosting “A Celebration of Change” at Planet Hollywood in Times Square Tuesday afternoon. Players Jared Jeffries, Malik Rose, Chris Duhon along with legendary New York University All American and current Community Relationship Representative Cal Ramsey hosted students from the Harlem Dowling Foundation.

 

With the words of President Obama’s inauguration address still ringing everyone’s ear, the students broke into groups to discuss how they could change some of the negative issues they face every day. Education, drugs and peer pressure were the main topics of concern. As one student stated, “we need to treat people the way we want to be treated”. Although many of them understood how important the day was, Jeffries, Rose, Duhon and especially Ramsey spoke about the significance of the day.

Ramsey, who was born in Selma Alabama, recalled the days of segregation and how it had an impact on his pro career. “As a kid growing up in Selma, when I went to the movies, I had to go around the back to go up the stairs,” he began. He talked about the separate entrances to get on trains and the famous water fountains that read “whites” and “colored.”

After a very successful college career at NYU that saw him set a school record for rebounds (19.6 a record that still stands today) he was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks before playing for the Knicks for a brief 7 games. He believes the color of his skin had as much to do with getting released as his knee injury. “Remember, there was only 8 teams in the league at the time with each roster carrying only 10 players. I was not the only black that cut but we were the first.”

Ramsey first began to think Obama had a good chance making history once he got past Hilary Clinton. “Once he got past her, I was pretty sure he would make it”. Ramsey made it a point to instill in the kids the importance of education. “The key to success is education and skill development. You can be successful in life by having skills. Someone has to build bridges, computers, TV’s and manual things. Barack is a symbol of the ultimate success but I think the important thing is that he makes people understand that you have to have skills and education to be successful”.

Chris Duhon had the pleasure of playing against the new president over the summer in pick-up games. He was more impressed with the type of person Obama was than his basketball skills. “He is intelligent but at the same time easy to talk to. He’s very approachable. I think that was the main thing that stood out”. Duhon stressed to the kids that more needs to be done now that history has been made. “We have to teach and educate them and let them know that just because this happened today the world hasn’t stopped. There’s still progress and changes that have to be done and it’s up to all of us to help create that change. With him being president it just gives us an example that we can do this. Anything is possible”.

Veteran forward Malik Rose was direct when asked if he ever thought he would see a black president in his lifetime. “Honestly, no”, he said. “I’m still processing it. Everything about it is all hope. I just get so motivated. It’s great time and I’m so glad to be part of it”. The night Obama was elected; Rose was at a friend’s house in Brooklyn.

On the way to his home in Harlem, he was amazed at the celebration that took part in the streets. He was more amazed how the police allowed the crowd to revel in history without incident. “The police did not trip at all. People were double parked in the streets, running across the streets. The police were out in full force. They let us as a people have our moment”. Rose had a simple message for the group at his table. There is a time and a place for everything. “I told the kids today I’m not saying forget where you came from. Use slang in its proper places. Slang is a part of American culture but when you’re in front of people, when you’re talking to an adult, teacher, parent or policeman, speak the right way. I definitely think that Obama being elected president is going to cast a certain light on the importance on the way we carry ourselves”.

The most poignant stories however came from Jared Jeffries as he talked about his dad growing up in Mississippi as a sharecropper and having to pick cotton by hand in his youth. “For the world to come how far it has come just in his generation and to see a black president in his lifetime is incredible”. As much as today’s kids know of the struggles of their parents and grandparents, Jeffries knows they will never fully understand what they went through.

He went on to tell the story of how the local sheriff came and took his uncle out of his house based on a rumor that he committed a crime. His uncle was later killed. The year was 1948 or 1949. “The kids hear stories like that and it means something to them but I don’t know they truly understand”. If there was one question Jeffries could ask the new President of the United States what would it be? He paused before replying, “Does he truly understand how important he is to this whole nation”?

The answer could have been seen on all of the faces of the kids from the Harlem Dowling School.&nbs
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About William Gerena-Rochet

William Gerena Rochet, is the former Latino Sports baseball editor. He is a retired NYC teacher who divides his time living between New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He started writing for Latino Sports during the inaugural World Baseball Classic when a series was played in Puerto Rico in 2006. On of his favorite moments was covering the 2006 MLB All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. During his time with Latino Sports, he covered several divisional and League championship series games and the 2009 World Series. He also covered the last game at the old Yankee stadium and the first game of the current one. In closing, William has covered multiples Latino Sports MVP Awards ceremonies and Spanish Language Press Conferences including the Jorge Posada retirement one. Now a contributor, Willie will occasionally cover the Yankees.