Charles Senteio

Friday, March 31, 2006

Not Just a Big Baby

I don’t watch college basketball much at all these days however last weekends games were wonderful as it showed just how exiting this game can be, especially when it’s played well by kids who are prone to mistakes, mental and physical, one second and bold courage in capturing the moment the next.

Two weeks ago I’d never heard of Glen “Big Baby” Davis, LSU’s 6’9” 310 pound sophomore. He is the key to a team that could be our next national champion. I was reading an article about him this AM and a quote from his coach John Brady struck me:

“He's probably the key to the personality of our team… Glen is an entertainer. He has to have positive vibes around him. He hates confrontations. He is always looking for someone to love him."

Why would a 20 year old basketball star be looking for someone to love him, I would assume that there are more than enough folks who want to do that. I decided to learn more about this kid they call “Big Baby”, very soon I found a very interesting story.

He’s clearly a very good athlete and has done much in his 2 years at LSU.
  • The best running back to ever come through Baton Rouge (University High School). Running back? Here I am thinking it must’ve been tough to tackle Eric Dickerson in High School.
  • Only focused on basketball his senior year, he was tired of 180 pound DBs taking him out at the knees, and was a McDonalds All American
  • SEC’s Freshman of the Year last year, while weighing 370 most of the season
  • This year he was voted SEC Player of the Year, averaging 19 points and 10 boards a game
  • He lost 60 pounds between his freshman and sophomore year, why and how did he do this? He explains.
    "Basically it's hard to create a good habit of eating right because all your life you were able to eat chips when you wanted to, but my determination to be the best player I can be has grown tremendously. I finally figured out what I want to do in life, and that's perform and play basketball, so it's not a problem any more. If that's what I have to do to change my bad habits to be the best player I can be, I am giving up any kind of food you want. I don't want to eat nothing. I am starving, so basically it's changed me as a person, and it's hard work, man."

Spoken well! Big Baby sounds like he’s learning a lot about life as well.

Where did he come from?

  • He grew up on drug-infested streets of Baton Rouge, about 5 minutes from the LSU campus.
  • As a 9-year-old, his size forced him to play football with older boys, when he would cry, the coaches would admonish him for being a "Big Baby." The name stuck.
  • His mother Tonya Davis played basketball, softball and ran track in high school. She was on the dance team at Northwestern State and eventually became a model. She is also a drug addict.
  • He met his dad a couple of years ago.
  • He, along with his older and younger sisters, wound up in a foster home when his mother was incarcerated.
  • Of his mom he says, "Basically, for the majority of her life, she's been fighting demons, she's a recovering drug addict, but through the midst of that she still had love for her kids and supported what we did. Even with all she was going through, she would still tell us the right things to do. She would tell us, 'Your mom will always disappoint you, but God will never disappoint you.' It's tough to hear that sort of thing, but it's amazing that she would say that”
  • Last year, Davis wore No. 34. This season, he switched to No. 0. Why? "To remind myself I came up with nothing."

I like Big Baby, not for his athletic gifts but for his perseverance, spirit, and will. Amazing how some good people happen to be good athletes. It’s also important to understand that all good athletes (or consultants, doctors, pastors, teachers, etc.) aren’t necessarily good people.
I don’t care who wins the dang thing this weekend, but I hope Big Baby does good and not only entertains, but continues to inspire. There so much more to athletics, and the kids who entertain us, than a score at the end of regulation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why didn't Belefonte go to the Funeral?

Harry Belefonte was invited by the King family to give the eulogy at Coretta Scott King's funeral. The King family dis-invited him after President Bush announced he would attend. Recently he gave his account as to why to Democracy Now. His main reason was because of his recent comments regarding Bush, Belafonte had made international headlines when he spoke out against Bush during a trip to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chavez. I looked up exactly what he said to check it out on my own:

No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush, says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people – millions – support your revolution, support your ideas, and yes, expressing our solidarity with you.

Jeez Harry, can you really say that?? I guess if you're an established activist you say what you feel... perhaps that's the definition.

Still it struck me as strange that he was invited, then when Bush announced he'd attend, the family recinded the invite. I did some more digging to decide whether or not it was a big deal. Should Harry be there? Does his track record and relationship to the King's warrant attendance?

Is he Relevant?

  • His album Calypso was the first album ever to sell over a million copies.
  • He received the National Medal of the Arts in 1994 and the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2000.
Is he really an activist or is he just trying to grab headlines?

  • He was once denied an apartment in New York City, he was born in Harlem, because he was African American. So he bought the whole building.
  • In 1987, he became the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
  • In 1988, the Peace Corps gave him its Leader for Peace Award.
  • He has established the Belafonte Foundation of Music and Art, which helps African American young people study for careers in the arts.
  • He recently produced a five-CD set The Long Road to Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music. It features African American music and music from Africa dating as early as the 1600s.

How did he get connected to King?
His words....
"When Dr. King came on one of his very first trips to New York, he was in Harlem, and a deranged black woman stabbed him, and he was -- the blade was just millimeters away from his heart, and to remove the instrument, his life was in jeopardy, and it was a very delicate operation. And it was then that I understood that -- after seeing Dr. King and talking to him, his first concern was what would happen to his family. And I said to myself, our leader cannot be concerned about that. That burden should not be on his shoulders. There are other aspects of the burden that would be his in relation to it, but not that. So that it was demanded and responded to that forever the welfare of his family would never be in jeopardy with him being at the helm of the movement, and we brought resources, and it was my task to direct all that, watching the kids grow, put money aside for their studies, to take care of Coretta, to make sure she had every convenience at her disposal to go, come while her husband was incarcerated.

Was he close to the family? To Coretta?
I'd say yea, again his words....
"...when Dr. King was murdered, I was in Atlanta in their home, and we separated ourselves from others who were there in the living room, and she (Coretta) said, “Would you come with me.” We went into the bedroom, and she said, “Help me select the clothes that I must -- we must dress him in.” And it was a very private and a very remarkable thing to – the intimacy of it with her. And as we were selecting the suits and the shirt and the tie and laying it out, she sat on the bed, and she kind of – a place where she had slept so often with her husband, and all those memories. And I said, “What is it?” She says, “You know, I'm worried about where this is all going. I'm worried about the nation, the rage, the anger, and I need to know what to do.” And we talked for a second. Then I said to her, “You know, at this very moment in Memphis, thousands of sanitation workers are on hold, because Dr. King was supposed to have been there tomorrow to lead that movement and to speak to the people, and before your husband, our leader, is put in his grave, if you have the will and the capacity to go down there tomorrow and stand up before those workers and let the world know that the movement has not been interrupted, that the process continues, and that all of us, as strong or as weak as we may be, will step into the breach and do what must be done.” And she did, and she went down, and she spoke, and we came right back ...she was in her own right very involved ... she was very, very committed to the peace movement, and as a matter of fact, in Europe...we put on a peace concert for 250,000 Germans in Cologne, mostly students... I called and asked her to come to speak. It would mean a lot to the young people there. She came, and I have never, ever heard a declaration of approval like those young German youth did when she came, and she had a sense of her own power. She had a sense of her own capacity to bring influence and to be revered for the work she did."

I saw some of the funeral on TV. I'm sorry he wasn't there, I think he should've been. He was a friend and deeply committed to the struggle. I continue to be concerned about how the current administration seems to squash dissent, yea I know they didn't dis-invite him, the family did, but jeez I have to think the 'administration' had a say. Are they acting out Capt. Ramsey's (Gene Hackman) sentiments to Lt. Commander Hunter (Denzel Washington) in Crimson Tide, "...we're here to preserve democracy, not practice it."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Straight Talk About Sex

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending some time with about 20 frat brothers and 15 kids between the ages of 8 – 16 as part of this year’s Project Alpha event at the St. Luke Community Church. Project Alpha is a long standing program of Alpha that focuses on providing education, motivation and skill-building on issues of responsibility, relationships, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Recently the fraternity has partnered with the March of Dimes to help put these events on all around the country

I had my current ‘little’ Daniel with me and we were treated with guest speakers from Parkland (Dallas’ Public Hospital) and the Dallas County Health Department talking about various public heath issues with respect to safe sex.

The program is excellent in that it offers a safe forum for young men to hear and discuss the various issues associated with participating in unsafe sex. Abstinence is a part of this program and since this one was held at a church it was a major theme. As I observed the program unfold I was struck by how the kids dramatically increased their awareness of not only the implications of unsafe sex but also issues around dating and dealing with girls. A key part of what made the program effective was in the usage of very direct and clear language around body parts and sexual acts which quickly broke down barriers and established a very safe, open environment for discussion. While there were some snickers and giggles when the kids were asked their understanding of terms like “intercourse”, “blowjob”, “vagina”, and “penis”, this all but vanished about an hour into the program. These certainly aren’t terms you normally hear in a church and definitely not in the mixed company of kids and adults but this clear communication is what makes this program so effective. It was very apparent that the information provided was necessary because some kids simply did not know enough about STDs, what they are, and how you get them. One kid thought that HIV was the only STD out there. Another kid thought intercourse was simply a penis entering a vagina, it is actually ANY body part of one person entering another persons body at any point.
One of the key tenants of the program, along with the benefits of abstaining, is arming kids with information so they can make informed decisions about their female relationships.

By the end of the day the kids were much more aware of the risks of sex as well as clarity around what kinds of choices they have. I am proud to participate in such a wonderful and needed program, I am also proud to be a part of the organization that puts on events like this.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Family Values Proposed Legislation

This week I've become familiar with some pretty amazing legislation pending in Congress. The Republican House Judiciary Committee has introduced new legislation that, if passed, would represent extremely significant changes in how we deal with undocumented citizens (The terms illegal alien or alien are politically incorrect, and pretty damn insensitive). The proposal aims to criminalize undocumented immigration status and criminalizes organizations and individuals assisting undocumented immigrants.
Over the past year or so I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to support activities related to providing health care for a number of undocumented citizens. Central Dallas Ministries' Community Health Services provides health care access in a clinical setting for almost 1000 patients per month, 60% of them are Latino about half of whom are undocumented. My work with Dr. Walton has brought me into the homes of Dallas citizens from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. Dr. Walton takes care of some of the more difficult patients who have suffered gunshot wounds, car and other accidents. In every case these folks came to the US to earn money to send home to their families. In fact many of the stories are incredible when you begin to understand and appreciate what some of these folks give up to come to this country and work. They are to a person hard working folks who come here to improve the lives of themselves and their families. Of course our business owners freely take advantage of the ‘low-maintenance’ access to cheap labor and our government benefits from collecting social security from folk that will never collect. These folk seem eerily similar to the many immigrants, including my paternal grandparents, who came to the US over the past 150 years or so. It is estimated that 40% of all Americans had an ancestor arrive at Ellis Island.

Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus, which is engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, is worth a read:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

What a powerful message that seems to capture the spirit of this nation so much better than the actions of our politicians that to me appear obtuse at best, and overtly racist and bigoted at worst.

Some of these patients upon their injuries express a profound desire to return home, in many cases this is unrealistic given their health care needs resulting from their trauma. They really can’t leave even though they would like to.
As I learned of this pending legislation, I’ve pasted a summary below, I found myself amazed at how all too many of our elected officials define their role in public service. Hey, I’m all for securing borders and protecting this country against terrorists, but I fail to see how this legislation helps accomplish this important objective.

Important Immigration Legislation Pending in Congress
Something akin to a panic has descended upon the immigrants’ rights community with the introduction in December 2005 of Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner’s HR 4437, The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. Passed last week in the House and poised to move quickly through the Senate, if passed, HR 4437 could signal some of the most sweepingly dramatic changes in immigration law since the now infamous Illegal Immigration Reform and Individual Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 and could actually surpass that law in gutting judicial review and eroding due process. Nothing in the bill provides a comprehensive and realistic plan for our immigration system to enhance border security, support economic growth and provide a legal means to lawful permanent residency for the millions of hardworking undocumented immigrants and their families in the United States. Nearly 500 organizations, including a wide variety of civic, religious and business groups are opposing this legislation. Below is a summary of just a sampling of the areas of greatest concern to the ILRC. See also for more information about drastic possible changes regarding immigration consequences of criminal convictions that would result if HR 4437 were passed.
  • HR 4437 criminalizes organizations and individuals assisting undocumented immigrants
    HR 4437 greatly expands the definition of “alien smuggling” to include assisting a person to remain or attempt to remain in the United States when the “offender” knows the person is in the United States unlawfully – thereby treating social services organizations, refugee agencies, churches, legal services and others the same as smuggling organizations and imposing criminal penalties for providing such assistance. Even family members and charitable workers could face federal prison time for assisting undocumented immigrants.
  • HR 4437 criminalizes undocumented immigration status
    Under current law, presence in the United States without valid status is a civil violation, not a criminal act. HR 4437 would create a new federal crime of “unlawful presence” and would define immigration violations so broadly as to effectively include every violation, however minor, technical or unintentional, as a federal crime. In addition to permanently barring the entire undocumented population – including 1.6 million children – from the United States, this would also lead to the tragic separation of families as undocumented members of mixed-status families would never be able to secure lawful immigration status in the United States.

I guess if I continue working with and for the indigent then I may end up needing someone to visit me in prison, good thing many of my friends and co-workers will be there with me.

Why did I watch the Oscars?

I must admit it, I watched an awards show last nite. No, I wasn't interested much in who came with whom or what dresses were being worn. I saw more Lorel commercials in a 2 hour period than I'd seen my whole life, but yes I was interested.

What struck me was why?

Last nite and this AM I realized it was because Hollywood has suddenly become a bit interesting to me. No I don't care about who's buying what and who's screwing' who (figuratively and literally) but I do care about social issues, justice, and interesting people. For some strange reason it seems as if this stuff also interests Hollywood these days.

My interest has been evolving over the past couple of years. My last 3 theater visits have been, Ray, Motorcycle Diaries, and Million Dollar Baby. All in very different ways had something to say either about interesting people or interesting 'human' feelings and events. I did check out the Oscars a bit last year mainly because I wanted to see if Jaime Foxx would win and if he did what he would say. (I of course remember he won but I don't recall a word he said at the podium). Each of the movies I'd seen and dug actually won Oscars in major categories. At the time I didn't realize that I was also seeing the beginning, at least for me, of Hollywood actually putting out products that would make me think they gave a shit about something other than just traditional 'entertaining'.

Do I think we'll be seeing more Brokeback and less Kong?? I don't know but I do know that something weird is going on if I'm watching a damn awards show.

I dunno if this is a trend but despite the pessimist in me I think it may be, I do know I dug the last two years of offerings. This wonderfully creative industry actually produced stuff I find provacative, I bought Hustle and Flow, and they actually won awards!! I haven't heard much about ticket sales this year but I suspect that even though Crash would never be a blockbuster it could produce very attractive margins becase it cost so little to make. I submit that producing thought provoking content and awarding those that actualy care, or at least act like they do, may be a big boost to their image which could translate to dollars. I guess time will tell.

I wonder if I'll tune in next March??