Picture of the month

Picture of the month
Life is circular

Sunday, January 21, 2007

One night One game One fabalous Role Model

It doesn't matter where I travel North Carolina will always be home.My love of hoops came from growing up in MEAC and ACC country and nothings changed but my location. How lucky was I having watched some of the games best men's and women players and frankly it got pretty crazy with four teams in the ACC all within an hours drive of each other.Now you add in the MEAC and CIAA schools in the area and let's just say a hoopster can become obsessed with the game.That's what happened to me during the 2003/04 season.
I had this great idea to see every CIAA,MEAC,and ACC schools home game at least once. I began my Odyssey on a Friday night by driving up I40 from the triangle to Greensboro.Once in town I scooted down Gorrell circling back around to Bennett street the main road running past the school it actually makes up the perimeter of the school. I'd never been on the campus before so I was surprised to see a few buildings some of which were under going a much needed renovation and enclosed by a chain link fence,while others had a more traditional three foot brick wall to compliment them.
I noticed for the most part that the campus was empty in sight and feeling.The grounds were well kept and clean but there was no sign of college life. It was almost a feeling that the six hundred women who attend had all packed up and gone home. In the past residence life might have given the place a different feel. At the time I visited the mostly commuter school ranks shrank even more when young women who were also locals made tracks to get home to the Piedmont or triangle areas for the weekend.I did not linger on the fact since I had arrived to see some hoops and so I found a parking spot near the gym and began the short walk to the game.
It could have been a Friday night on the campus of any women's college. A group of local males piled out of a sport utility vehicle across the road from those classic Georgian style brick buildings.The structures stood dimly lit in the distance and posed a contrast to buildings on the outskirts of the quad which sat empty in the dark surrounded by a that chain link security fence that caught my eye earlier. The guys casually proceed to walk at a steady pace up Gorrel, a side street that the gymnasium is located on. I listen intently while struggling to keep up with the only other people around on the unfamiliar street.They gathered for awhile just outside it's doors to girl watch and perhaps wait on friends. Their voices were kept low as an exchange began on just how good the players and tournament will be. Before continuing in to check out the game one wondered aloud if a certain young lady will be in attendance. Just another weekend at college USA,I was felt a bit old just listening and remembering my college days.So I made my way into the building to check out pregame goings on.
This was by no means your average basketball tournament.It was in its second year and it happened to be one of many new positives floating around the school that year. Bennett is one of two historically black female colleges in the nation and until recently it's future was in doubt.Ironically the other college Spellman which was thriving would be Bennetts opponent that night.I came to see the game but it was the intermission that stays with me now.
A few minutes in to halftime I decide to stroll the halls of the gym.After awhile In walks a man dressed in a pair of black slacks with matching polo top carrying a walkie talkie. I stir as he slowly surveys the primisses before speaking into the gadget he has been holding in his right hand. I turn and continue to walk around the hall looking at torphy cases and wondering of what past glory the walls in the gym could tell me if i could command them to speak. A few moments pass and Dr Jonnetta Cole the college President walks into the building.I did not noticed her at first as I was still facing the walls looking at the cases of memorabilia and then I felt it.
A light acknowledging touch, I watched as people gave instant smiles and greetings to the woman who has affectionately known as sister pres. Moving through the hall and into the gym she continued reaching out with a combination of affirming touches, hand shakes and hugs for those in her path. Which ironically include those here to cheer on Spelman college the college that she retired from the presidency of and which she picked up that nic "sister prez" .At that moment it wasn't about rivalry it was about love and sharing in the dreams,accomplishment,and possibilities for the black community.These non monetary things are wrapped in the embrace of what African American have claimed as our own since we arrived here, hope. Dr Cole was it's symbol on that night that,the Bennett ship was starting to sail upright and steady again and I could feel it.After making her way to the stage to give out tourney trophies she thanked the audience for their support and made it clear she was here to support her Bennett Belles and proceeded to give hugs to all the players from teams participating.I have long since forgotten the score and the coaches names but I see everything as clearly as the day it happened. The memories of being on that campus at that point in time will linger with me always.I saw the rebirth of a college that had a long history and an even longer debt sheet.
This is why I say we need more Dr Coles not for her celebrity as she is well known but because passing on the tools to build our house is important.As someone who was a professor and has spent her life in education she understands that the key to opening the door to someone is a providing a positive oppurtunity in which to grow.The woman understand that in order to have a future we need to share our skills and leave that as a legacy for the next generation to build on.Dr Cole has done that,she simply is a dynamic speaker, a superstar fundraiser, a woman with a great mind for business who understands philanthrophy and she has done it all with grace.
I can tell you after witnessing her actions it occured to me that I might have some of her writing.As a great book buff I will buy anything that strikes my fancy in the bargain or clearance section.I figure even if I read it years later I at least have it. One of the books I bought in that fashion was Dr Coles, having only glanced at it. I remember after the game rushing home to find and read it.The lesson she taught me that night was one my mother had always exemplified.There is peace to be found in living a life of dignity by doing and simply being.
So I say a caged bird sings but a free bird inspires,sister pres has done that for countless members of a new generation.The best of the best of our young female leaders have and are filing through the halls of academia and the woman who is the grand daughter of Florida's first black millionaire has had a hand in showing quit a few of them what true community is.
Her tenure which started in 2002 may be coming to a close but the legacy she is leaving will grow on. She is beloved by students and many others she inspired through the years for her positives.However not long after my visit I was shocked but not surprised that the board was in disagreement with Dr Cole and she almost resign.I sighed that it was another example of black folks being resentful and of anyone who could bring success to a dieing institution. I held my breathe and prayed she would hold on for the students sake.As we approach the end of her five year self imposed term limit I feel proud.In coming back to academia she also taught us another lesson in commitment to do a job and triumph through the tough times.She knew it would not be easy yet here was a woman who absolutely did not need any accolades but she will get plenty and they are well deserved. Today Bennett has Mentoring programs for teens in the summer and students are becoming active in the areas colligiate community.There are so many happening on the campus now, the atmosphere is more alive and vibrant which makes her statement about why she chose to help the school even more clear as we move toward this spring of 07 commencement."only the challenge to help Bennett soar to the heights of it's possibilities could have brought me out of retirement"
We will soon celebrate the end of one era and look forward to the beginning of Bennett's much more certain future because of it.The sense of commitment to ones community is very contagous and Bennett has caught it in a big way.

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