Over the past couple of weeks there's been plenty of talk about being Black in America, the need for Black History Month, and a debate over whose life really matters. All of this coming to a complete head during a time when politicians are spurting out ten second soundbites that really create division in a country that really needs to come together for the better good. The words you are about to read somewhat fell into my lap and I'm glad it did because I think that we can all learn something from the situation playing out in Boise, Idaho this month. Specifically centered on the Idaho Stampede, the NBA's d-league team, and an artist by the name of Patrick Hunter.
For some context, I lived and worked in Boise for three years as a news reporter with one of the affiliates. It was customary for me to immerse myself in the community and that's when I met Patrick. I can't even begin to tell you how many Stampede games I went to while I lived there. Nonetheless, what they have been doing for some time now is helping the Boise community, largely Caucasian learn from others who bring diversity to the area. It was in Boise when I realized just how diverse families could be. It was in Boise, that I learned that there are people in the world that no matter your skin color families could be black or white, African or American.
This year during a special February game, The Idaho Stampede and Patrick Hunter will be paying tribute to influential African-American or Blacks whichever you prefer. The tribute will include the faces of people like, President Barack Obama, Civil Rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr & Coretta Scott King, author & poet Maya Angelou, scientist George Washington Carver, author Frederick Douglass, and NBA great Earl Lloyd to name a few and their faces will be painted by Hunter on the teams jersey's. "I was really inspired by the stories of these individuals," Hunter said to me by phone. Hunter is convinced that the people who attend the game on the night that the team will display the jerseys will also be inspired.
"Take for instance, George Washington Carver, who I learned had a very deep passion for the arts and flowers and it led him to study the sciences. This will be a great opportunity to educate people about the contributions that African-Americans have made to the world," says Hunter.
For me that quote alone is important. Recently, actress Stacey Dash, known famously from her role n the movie "Clueless" came out saying that Black History Month should not be a think and while I think I somewhat understand where she was attempting to go with the statement we should be including the history of blacks in the complete history telling of America. The Idaho Stampede and Hunter are hoping that their project will invoke a degree of conversation among people. "I think when students, not just black students but all students in Boise when they get to understand and hear the stories of these great people they will feel inspired," Hunter said. It has been said that children are often the gateway to getting the parents to change their way of thinking. In this case, in this world that is often dominated by hate maybe a group of basketball loving children can be the change in small town Boise, Idaho that is needed not only in this country but across the world.
"By partnering with the Stampede and going into the classroom with the students I think that we are going to engage an audience that has an interest in basketball and has an interest in art and they won't really understand what they will be experiencing but what they will come to realize is that we are going to take these different things from culture and art and package it in a way that engages people." Says Hunter. The takeaway from this is that all history is important and it is also important that we all respect the history of everyone in this country. In my first person account, having lived in Boise, this is the perfect opportunity to see how people from varied backgrounds, ethnicities, and religious faiths come together through basketball and art to remember and pay tribute to Americans although they happen to be of color. Boise is a community that when I was there embraced the differences that came along with me and I know once all eyes in the arena during February 20th game against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers are on the players jerseys they will embrace the art and cultural lesson that comes along with it. Let's all join in on the efforts being made in Boise and start to embrace the differences of the people around us. February has been deemed Black History month but that doesn't mean that we can't make it a part of history all year round. Let Boise be the start to a conversation that is desperately needed.