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Sports is more than sport: A dialogue on sports and media literacy

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

What follows is a dialogue between my son, Kagiso Reed (KG), senior at Mastery Charter School and me, (SRIII) after we attended a professional development session facilitated by Temple University’s Media Literacy Lab on September 19th at Temple University.

SRIII: Hey KG, what was it like hanging out with your dad at the sports and media literacy seminar conducted by Erik Sakamoto and Patrick Johnson, from Youth Radio, Oakland, CA?

KG: Wow the experience was amazing. The term I’ll use to really describe it is “Dope.” I don’t mean dope in the drug epithet. (laugh) But, dope in a more lax way to say "fantastic."

The energy in the room was lively and driven with creative intent!

It’s somewhat funny because I was actually going to stay home because I had a cold and felt like if I merely stepped out of bed, I would turn into a mound of dust. Yeah, it was pretty bad! My willpower said, “Kagiso, you know what today is, right?” and with that I flew out of bed!

Erik Sakamoto and Patrick Johnson were very committed to relaying a message, which would leave all the attendees with some food for thought.

SRIII: I apologize for calling you a “wannabe sneaker head" when I was talking about sports apparel and materialism. But tell me, what was your big takeaway from this seminar?

KG: The “sneaker head” burn we will address later when the cameras aren’t on (laughs).

There were so many things I could truly take away from the powerful presentation, but one of the most important things I took away was “everyone must fit into a box”.

This quote somewhat saddens me, but no matter how hard a person works; their ethnicity or race could limit them from many things.

Something that eases this pain is the fact that we are all endowed with choices and decisions that shape who we are.

Even though a high percentage of “African Americans” are in prison, I don’t have to be burdened by or plagued with this. The reason why is because I have chosen the “respectful-hardworking box” to place my belongings and self.

SRIII: Clearly Patrick and Erik shared some “dope” methods of using sports and media literacy to help young men of color address issues of health, sexuality, body images, race, and stereotypes. However, a lot of their sports and media literacy work is with youth in the juvenile justice system. I am wondering if you think sports and media literacy topics could work in traditional 6th-12th grade school settings? And if so how?

KG: Sports! Are you kidding? Sports will work anywhere!

Sports can pretty much bring anyone together. As far traditional school settings, I believe it would benefit kids in grades 6-12 immensely. It could provide an outlet for youth to vent and discuss problems and situations that are relevant to their lives.

SRIII: I was impressed with the number of high school students that attended the event — you, five students from my alma mater, Overbrook High School, other city and suburban students among the 25 people attending the seminar. You all contributed a lot to the discussions. Do you have similar discussions about sports, racism, gender, and stereotypes in your school?

KG: Well… at my school the only time you will hear about sports is during lunch or a bit in class while the teacher is not speaking. We really don’t discuss anything but school culture-based things that will increase scores or incentive programs. So as far as pressing sports and cultural issues we don’t discuss that much in school.

SRIII: What about girls? Do you think they could benefit from sports and media literacy lessons? Why or Why not?

KG: It’s funny because I know a few girls who actually enjoy sports.

At the workshop my fellow attendees were heightening the opinion that girls don’t like sports. Of course, there are many girls that would rather scratch a chalkboard than watch any sports but, some of them enjoy sports a great deal.

As men we are blinded by this judgmental mindset that woman only enjoy womanly things, and we don’t take the time to figure out.

SRIII: I was fascinated with the discussion around extreme sports and black youth. I know you like skateboarding. (Now I see how you almost broke your arm) But hey, who was that Kanye West-like skateboard dude whom we watched video footage of?

KG: Oh yeah! That guy was Terry Kennedy. Great skater but I’m not too fond of him.

SRIII: I was surprised you said you didn’t like this guy’s swagger. But you like Kanye’s swagger. I don’t get that – help me understand.

KG: Kanye’s “steez” is backed up with thought- inducing melodies and tunes. He gives you a story he has painted with words.

His ego can get the best of him sometimes, but to me he has broken many norms in hip hop. If not for his music, his collaborations alone floor me. He has collaborated with Daft Punk (techno group) and many other genre smoldering groups and people.

SRIII: Now you know I have developed some lessons that use hip hop culture to explore persuasion and help students develop persuasive writing skills. (Remember that time you visited my class and spoke with my students about hip hop culture in Japan?) I am wondering if you could give me some ideas. What type of lessons could I design that explore both hip hop and sports. Any “dope” ideas?

KG: I’d have to say don’t impose lessons with hip-hop and sports meshed together. Ease them into it with video clips and “dope” presentations. Show some connections and link sports and hip hop more covertly.

SRIII: Do you think using non-traditional subjects could help students do better on standardized test and the like? Or do you think students will see lessons using sports and media literacy as fluff?

KG: It will definitely help with standardized assessments and raising students’ awareness of the many opportunities in life.

It will also broaden their horizons and find many more possible outlets and future aspirations. It will not be seen as fluff because it is one of those things that is so different it has to work.

SRIII: Last question – during the session, I noticed sports kept coming up as a metaphor for subjects outside the realm of sports. Sports is life.. the classroom as a team… etc. What metaphor do sports represent for you?

KG: Sports represent the games and tasks we uphold as people on the field. When it is hard, we may be given calls we feel we shouldn’t expect, but we should never be benched unless we pull ourselves out the game.

SRIII: Son… I know this is not going to sound "dope" (Pause…) But I am proud of you and love you!

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