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October 11, 2005


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Lester Spence

This is good. But in large cities like Detroit, the system designed to produce NBA players is crystalized. A set of go betweens identify talent for high school and college coaches. A system of high powered camps, aau teams, and summer leagues, shunt the players into the system directly. the output is a set of kids endowed to play basketball for DI-III college settings, and after that some combination of semi-pro, euro-pro, and nba ball.

None of the identifiers, the coaches, the entourage, has a vested interest in getting these kids anywhere but the court.

And in Detroit, the system starts at 4th grade at the LATEST. Do a keyword search for "Webber" and "Superfriends" and see what pops up.

So I think this could work quickly in mid to small markets. Large markets like Detroit? Tougher nuts to crack.


ah.., athlete channeling is but one of the several ecologically limiting stresses imposed on our youths. so we eschew a head-on confrontation with the NBA procurement apparatus, and take on the other channels available to us.

There is no exclusivity in the search for and cultivation of leaders.



I gotsta disagree with you my brother. The basketball apparatus that you outlined is entirely correct, but Detroit might be the easiest nut to crack because of the combination of tremendous on-court success, retained street-cred, and cultural continuity. For example, Webber, Coleman, Steve Smith and Jerome Bettis appear to operate from a singular cultural paradigm that has profoundly affected thousands of kids for over 10 years. What's missing? An institutional apparatus linking these four men with the leading financial, cultural and political players in Black America and the rest of the diaspora. So, for example: let's extend the current Detroit paradigm to the Florida State cats like Derrick Brooks (who takes a contingent of teens to Africa EVERY YEAR - and runs a serious program) and Warrick Dunn (purchasing homes for single moms). The potential here is tremendous because 1) these guys have access to ALL upcoming athletes across sports and 2) with the right network, the men can INSULATE young players from some of the financial perils of leading in the black community.

Detroit sounds like a great place to start. The money is there. The will is there. The roadmap is UNDER CONSTRUCTION.


When I was on my way out the door of the buppie & role-monkey circus in 1986 at the ripe old age of 25, you could catch me saying things like this:
Qualification before opening:Please depersonalize my attack.

I may be just mouthing off but it seems that the fact that (many peopletookthe time to encourage me and to "show me the way" towards "success.")you don't take your success very seriously. Or perhaps you might notfind your career at AT&T as fulfilling as your commitments to programs like PACE. I understand and agree that MAYBE somebody ought to take ghetto kids and teach them what their parents can't (or won't), but are we setting them up for excellence or simply acheivement? Acheiving toacheive breeds some pretty strange personalities and sometimes very unbalanced characters. This is my theory on the nature of very phony people found in LA (and elsewhere).

My dangerous and sometimes telling observation on lifestyles of thisnature is that a lot of people get sold on "success" that doesn't reallymake sence to them. A lot of good and average and below average students prepare to become yuppies in engineering simply because somebody told them that blacks are needed there. The only support that these young students get is advice for a "constructive" lifestyle which usually means economically successful professional careers. Then when they find out what engineering or business is really all about, it loses its appeal.

Isn't it kind of freightnening that the 'white folks' that sat on top ofthe black race for so long are simply fat sales managers? That wasn't sohard to learn was it? Isn't it kind of frightening that the neighborhoods craved for so long by ghetto dwellers aren't that great. Leaves you hollow doesn't it? So what does preparing for professionalism really prepare one for? It seems to me that if there were a such thing as a fulfilling career, one would wish they could do it constantly. Plus they wouln't always expect everybody back home to appreciate it. But how many professionals will tell you today that they honestly love their work? The black engineers and scientists will come; they will be naturals like Guy Bluford was.

E.A. Bouchet: PhD Physics, Yale University 1886.

Where are the black artists, musicians and writers coming from? Who is giving today's black youth that kind of motivation? What about historians, soldiers, bartenders, carpenters, farmers, architects,chemists and candy store owners? Who ever told a black child that hecould grow up to be a great grocery store owner? It seems to me that we have got far too many narrow minded ideas about what is good for black people. Why must our 'innate responsibility' make us put a Jesus Blessed NAACP kissed by Corretta King stamp of approval on everything?

We are not doing innocent children any justice by preaching to them about the horrors of drug abuse and teenage pregnancy. What has brainwashed us into thinking that these are natural tendancies of "lower income blacks". Damn! I'm hot now.

Black people are not locked out of their neighborhoods, they somehow grow to appreciate that there is nothing there. Why? because there are no big fancy corporations there, and that's where all the success is,right? And nothing looks more foolish than some engineer talking about quality of life in the ghetto. Well, maybe I should retract that a bit but what is an electrical engineer really going to do for the ghetto? It's a mystery to me. Maybe start a computer consulting firm in the ghetto, or an engineering contractor's firm in the ghetto. Funny?

My suggestions...
1 Take a ghetto tour. Look at an unemployed man in the face and thinkabout what you want to tell him (from your yuppiemobile) about his life.(this is your perogative as a God-fearing professional). Then see what you can really do with your college degree. He'll probably tell you. Remember, it's his child you want to convert.
2 Teach A child. Teach YOUR child. There is a worthy candidate. It only takes one person to be President. It only takes one person to get into MIT, if its engineering you love. (that's where all the success is,right?)Most importantly, teach a child that the world needs his best effort inhis strong suit. Show him what the great men and women of the WORLD have done. Let's not design career paths for them to follow in our sorry footsteps. Give the kid more respect than that, and give the black responsibility stuff a rest. Finally, look through Who's Who of any arbitrary year in history one dayand try to convince yourself that you are a real role model. Or, as an alternative, run a marathon because you are black like Abebe Bekila.


I think the way I have altered my thinking in 20 years bears looking into but several things haven't changed. The first, probably best underscored by 'Premature Autopsies' is that nobility has no permanent address, so I have no doubt that the natural leaders that arise out of any community are born and made into the shape of their Gods.

The whole problem exists within the context of who those Gods are supposed to be and how many ways and means are at our disposal to suggest how they should evolve. In other words, who are the role-monkeys?

What struck me around the same time I wrote this was that to grow up white with a name like John was to be completely anonymous and without any historical imperative. As a black man, I felt very strongly that I had an historical imperative and that has shaped me profoundly. But the very idea is limiting. What I was combatting then was the domination of the buppie paradigm on all notions of black success - this done in the days before post-modernism and multiculturalism. But through all these wars of definition and imposition of imperatives, the one who is truly free is the one for whom none of it applies.

So what does it take to grow someone who can live in the moment and think on his feet and recognize her own skills and take advantage of that without all the modelling and monkeying with paradigms of achievement?


once agin, cobb, you've succeeded in missing the point...ain't nobody talkin' bout hollerin' at kids about drugs and teen pregancy or signifyin' CRM afta the fack...plus, ain't nobody sayin' airbody gotta be a engineer. the proposition here is simple. entertaining caucs is not the only path to success. in fact, it's a bit perverse to engage in this as the sole expression of excellence for any group - let alone a BLACK collective in a white supremacist TIME-SPACE continuum. that's it. expand the definitions and expressions of excellence. expand excellence in a way that catalyzes the pursuit across the peer group. i don't hear rocket science - but in your objections, i hear a deep-seated opposition to something that goes far beyond the initial scope of the post. in other words, it seems as though you swept past the words to the personally historical...

and ya cain't have it both ways...your defense of billy bennett was based on his words - with a strick avoidance of the personally historical. as if his contemplation of the topic was an isolated incident. ya cain't extol the virtues of a ho like bennett and affirm the greatness of american mediocrity (like ya 100 points of blight list) - and then minimalize pervasive white supremacist practices as the folly of sales reps. if that's all that held black folk back, you and mcwhorter (cause that's who ya sound like) should leave the keyboard for a bit and gather narratives or visit a library or something.

why do u persist in writing as though no one in this space left the sandbox...aftawhile, a brother might think ya ain't really gots no luv for nunna us. sumwitdat?? if ya spent as much creative energy on ghettonomics as ya spent on freakanomics and backin' billy b, ya might come up with an urban application for electrical engineering in service to the energy inefficient, cash-strapped residences of black folk living on antiquated grids with limited access to clean air and clean water.

i suppose we're left with your advocacy of the status quo - which you proclaim to be devoid of any historical (past-present-future) dimension...ya think "John" is free of an historical imperative? really? what does that look like at the Univ. of Cincinnati College Republicans board meeting? or a neo-con convention? or on Wall Street or Silicon Valley or in Iraq or unemployment lines or homeless shelters or the Aryan side of Jackson penitentiary - or anywhere else white folk be congregated...me thinks thou dost bug out too much.

this is not about pegging kids into tight roles - it's about outlining a paradigm for children to express excellence beyond the parameters that principally benefit non-black peoples. athletics and entertainment are narrowing paradigms for excellence with limited benefit. if you're arguing against that, you may wish to paraphrase or restate - because i may have erred in reading your post - otherwise, i still think you are buggin' out.


'us' is the sandbox, homie. I'm saying there is no 'us' in the big picture, and that anybody who thinks so has simply not raged enough to get past 'hood level politics. that your definition of black is provincial and black concerns are too small, and that care for black uplift is only marginally different than that for anyone else. that what is particularly required is everything it takes to leave the province of the ghetto. university education suffices.

what you keep telling me is that going to white universities makes one more white than bright and that the black future depends on the black university. it is this provincial view that makes you believe that i find something transcendent in the whiteness of university, whereas i see the transcendence of modernity (something which fights for its own survival at university). my conflict is with what appears to be your anti-modernism. yet you know i recognize the value of your organicism.

republicanism isn't an ends. it is a means to social power. it means using the power of the 'burbs and all that works for the common dreams of the commoner. but it seems to be a leap of faith that you cannot make - that the use of the power of the mainstream corrupts irrevocably. for me it's just another stop on the subway.


my definition of blackness is not provincial. that's not a demonstrable claim on your part. it's a pithy proclamation that plays to a certain element, but it lacks weight and standing. what is patently obvious is your ongoing rejection of all things black.urban.rural.suburban that have proved to be patently universal in every application...the simple fact is that black ghetto expressions of excellence in athletics and entertainment have been embraced across this planet with unremitted desire - and you suggest the real juice might be with a bunch of fake-ass publicans? where you get your dust from? snookie on 8th ave.?

it seems to me that what is being advocated is a push to extend those manifestations of excellence to all aspects of human life - not just engineering - with the assumption that just as the world has an insatiable desire for excellent athletes and entertainers, there will be a similar appetite for academic, social and cultural excellence.

none of what i'm saying or suggesting comports with your skinny assumptions. your platform needs more arroz con habichuelas...ain't no hips, ass or thighs to your stuff. moreover, what has been more modern or transformative than the era of modern athletics and entertainment ushered in by this generation - the same one you still perceived as locked in the projects on Myrtle Ave...some folks have left the projects and decided to purchase world class football franchises like Arsenal...free your mind and a cultural nationalist modern ass will follow. the only way out is through. the time warp shoes don't fit and the publican kool aid is nasty as hell.

you've got me confused with someone else...i've never made the white university argument - especially since i've been to 3 of 'em and don't rep caucs at any turn.


by the way...cnu can obviously defend his own stuff - so i suspect he'll weigh in if i misrepresent the thought process here.

as for my sentiments, cobb, i would invite you consider a broader cultural, temporal framework for your own participation in a collective - any collective.


so i suspect he'll weigh in if i misrepresent the thought process here.

you do me proud magne....,thanks

personally, I suspect this is the rock in Cobb's shoe.


I remember reading that after a similar back and forth. That's a compelling insight. I guess he's still trying to be down with the body snatchers. Patty Hearst fa real. I've seen that type of angst up close - the logical contradictions are untenable and will only lead to greater complications. Time won't heal this wound - only a reckoning with one's humanity from the perspective of an authentic, unlimited definition - unbounded by the prerogatives of folks beyond the milieu and predisposed to profiteer from its genius, all the way denouncing some supposed pathology.

He could buy a Snoop Dogg video with a bunch of blondes from Laguna Beach/Hills working the Compton side of the tracks. After all, he would be supporting the entrepreneurial black face capitalism that has catapulted this brand into the stratosphere. It's arguably a nobler cause than cheering for landslides. It may not be much nobler, but I would hate for some of his conservative buddies to read that post next to one of Katrina posts. It would might read false.

that's a big ass rock.


oh please. it's a grain of sand. you are deeply trippn'


whatever to laguna.

What I was trying to express is the necessarily limited scope of any program of uplift aimed at a group as large as African America. In 86 I was suggesting that no simple program of professionalism is satisfactory because of any standard which suggests 'thats where all the success is' is wrong. Furthermore one could not take masses of blackfolks and stick them in that bucket - it's just too small. Therefore a broader context of success was necessary to include a broader range of occupations (to the extent we were just talking education -> employment).

I wrote this at Xerox on the xerox-blacknetwork as the fat white sales managers were fumbling the future. Most of the audience were black engineers.

What remains consistent between now and then is the desire to stick blackfolks into what I believe to be narrow frameworks of success - even such things as 'participation in a collective'. Such collectives are reductive.


What remains consistent between now and then is the desire to stick blackfolks into what I believe to be narrow frameworks of success - even such things as 'participation in a collective'. Such collectives are reductive.

Ain't nobody sticking blackfolks into anything. Having had access and exposure as deep and wide as just about anybody in America, I find myself constantly astonished and rejuvenated by the emergent qualities of the black interpersonal. It really is just as simple as that, and there's nothing reductive about it.

While I do the commercial and professional thing daily with others, my first fruits are reserved for the Learning Center which serves as a multi-generational extended family. Take, for example, the traditional Chinese immigrant - who likely had recourse to as many as 4 mutual assistance associations. Regional, city/ village, surname, trade - each of which comprised a specialized and material mutual aid and benefit society.

Our typifying lack of comparable communal systems is what makes us weak Cobb. Having been stripped of the extended kinship structures that facilitate success in the encompassing social ecology, our normative inability to collaborate in a concrete, infinite games mode - has led many to disdain the black interpersonal. I don't have time for the NAACP, a fraternity, or a storefront church myself, but I don't have any delusions of rugged individualism either.

I think you just need to put the Ayn Rand down brah...,


You misjudge me again. Whatever.


cobb, lol.


Is that the pitter patter of some big ass feet or is that Cobb backing out of a conversation where he has not addressed the issue.

Your comments to the black engineers make sense, but that's not what nulan's talking about. It's certainly not what I'm talking about. C- you're suggesting this paradigm is limiting without demonstrating your claim. That's not cool man.

BTW, I thought the Patty Hearst thing was funny. Sup?


You misjudge me again. Whatever.

Now that would be an instance of the pot calling the kettle black. While I fully understand the capitalist-commercial thing and share your dedication to wealth or at least security generation - I believe we differ strongly in the who, why, and how of our respective approaches.

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