THE. A word used to indicate that a following noun is a unique, or particular member of its class. BLACK. Which is that following noun, and it’s a word that’s simple, yet powerful, and misunderstood. ATHLETE. Which simply means, one who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina. When put together, you have The Black Athlete. It’s not about a stereotype, race, or being the underdog, but it’s a REALITY. A reality for so many young black kids across the globe, that believe because of sports they’re destined for greatness. I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. A city that’s full of talent, which also was once hailed as the basketball Mecca of the world. I grew up watching the likes of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Albert White, Maurice Taylor, Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Steve Smith, Derrick Coleman, Shawn Respert, Winifred Walton, Howard Isley, Voshon Leonard, also George Ward and his Detroit Cooley High School team, that won 3 straight state championships! They never cared about the stereotype attached to The Black Athlete, which was often stated by saying: “Often ignored for their mental capabilities, but exploited for their physical attributes.” For them, basketball was their life, and for many of us, it was a way out of the hood. It was a gateway to a better life, and somewhat of a Savior wrapped in orange leather. I grew up in a middle to lower class neighborhood on Biltmore Street, which happened to be the same street high school (Detroit Country Day), college (Michigan), and NBA legend Chris Webber was raised on. Being that close to greatness, and witnessing it, made me believe I could follow in that direction as well. My dream was to attend high school at Detroit Cooley, and play for the Legendary Coach Ben Kelso in the Public School League (PSL). However, my Father had other plans, and sent me to Redford Bishop Borgess, which was a Catholic Private School, just outside of the city. My father’s decision to send me to Borgess shaped my life, and ultimately became the catalyst for me writing the book: The Black Athlete. My parent’s believed if they provided me with a private school education, it would shield me from the hurt, harm, and dangers which are faced in the rough inner-city schools. The reality was, after I went to school in the suburbs, I had to come back home to the “real world,” which was the tough 7 mile and Biltmore neighborhood I lived in. Attending a private school led to jealousy, which caused me to lose a few friends, but destiny allowed me to gain new ones that I consider family to this day. The Black Athlete has to endure, overcome even more, and constantly go beyond, in order not to give-up. We have to deal with life outside of our environment of playing sports. Whether it’s losing loved ones, sickness, or short comings that come along with everyday life. Nevertheless, my desire to be an anomaly was greater, and I refused to be normal or what society expected me to become. R.J. Watkins, who is the main character of The Black Athlete, represents me and many young black males in today’s society that play sports. We all envisioned ourselves obtaining greatness through athletics, and like R.J., I was blessed to have a coach that embraced each one as his own child, and pushed us beyond limits to be great. Coaches that taught us that hard work is UNDEFEATED. The Black Athlete, is a compelling urban fiction story that vividly depicts the mindset of an inner city African-American youth who play sports, and has a dream of making it to the professional ranks. It reveals not only the common mindset, but it shows the challenges as well, while taking the reader on a realistic journey into the mind, life, and dreams of R.J. Watkins. R.J. is unaware of the statistics, probabilities, and odds stacked against him. But how could he know? He’s not a statistician, mathematician, or an odds maker, but like all those before him, he was Just a kid… trying to make it.
John D. White- Author/Creator of The Black Athlete