JSW: Yeah, he was about disenfranchised people. The way he did things was just so intelligent and savvy. You watch documentaries and you hear about Selma and the decisions that he made that were so impactful and resounding. The people who were there were people who considered themselves good Americans and who just wanted the best for everybody. He wasn’t just speaking to black males, but to white people who had status and wealth and weren’t disenfranchised but just knew in their hearts that what was happening was wrong. Good Americans. That’s the reason that he’s such a big deal – he did so much for so many people.
AM: Yeah, they did a good job of teaching people to support each other.
I also really like Tupac. People might think that’s bad, but I think he told the hard truth about what happened in lower economic communities. He also wasn’t just talking about black people in his lyrics. He talked about women’s rights. He talked about Colombine. Just anybody that was oppressed.
BURDEN OF RESPONSIBILITY
JSW: As young black males who have led a privileged life so far, our duty is to represent and excel for our race. Not in a racist way, but to show that we can be accomplished. Also, it would be squandering a lot if we get this opportunity to come here and get an education, stay for free, play football and have all these social networks and we just don’t accomplish anything.
If you ask one of my white teammates who he represented, he would probably say ‘my family,’ not the white race, because the white race has achieved everything you can achieve in America. It’s our duty to start putting black people in that same position. Not for the simple fact that we want power, but so that the people who come after us will have more opportunities.
AM: It’s also our duty to pour into young black kids. My dad is someone I really look up to, but he also put other really strong African-American figures in my life. There have been so many people in my life who looked like me teaching me things that are important.
I think it’s our duty to also do that - to give people role models that look like them ... for us to BE those role models. And not just to black kids – we have a responsibility as black men but not just to black kids.
HONORING ROLE MODELS
JSW: I have a wonderful mother who played the role of both mother and father to me. She’s extremely strong. I have a problem with people using not having a dad as an excuse for underachieving. But that said, I had both parents in one. She took that role. She sacrificed everything to get where I am. It will be extremely important to me when I have a family to be a good father. I understand the importance of having a strong male figure in your life because there are some things your mom just can’t teach you. That’s just the way it is.
Smith-Williams and his mother: Wendy Williams
That’s why I volunteer. I want to give someone a male role model.
AM: I have a real strong dad. The things he couldn’t teach me, he would put real strong people around me who could teach me. I agree with James, I wouldn’t say that not having a father is an excuse, but not having a great role model is an excuse.
Moore and his brother, Adonté, and dad, Damon.
JSW: That’s a huge issue with young African Americans – there are a lack of role models. If someone is growing up in a poor neighborhood – and this goes for all kids, honestly - and they have nothing to look up to, what kid is going to motivate themselves to go achieve something if they have no one motivating them ?
“MORE THAN A DUDE IN A HELMET”
AM: Statistically, if you don’t have a lot of resources, you could end up in jail. I feel like it’s our duty to make sure kids don’t go on that path. They don’t just have to play in the NBA or the NFL. We need to give them something to look up to that has nothing to do with sports. At the end of the day, your mind is the most important thing in this world.