NBA legend calls for racial equality at SJV Town Hall
One of basketball’s all-time greats, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was interviewed by Paul Loeffler at Fresno’s San Joaquin Valley Town Hall to kick off their 2018-19 lecture series. Abdul-Jabbar focused on the topic of leadership, both in life and on the court, Oct. 9.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and boasts a record six MVP awards and six NBA Championships, one with the Milwaukee Bucks and five with the Los Angeles Lakers. In college at UCLA, he led the team to three consecutive national championships and his high school team won 71 straight games.
While his athletic résumé is legendary, Abdul-Jabbar’s work outside of basketball is similarly impressive. Since retiring in 1989, he has acted in movies and television shows, is a columnist for The Washington Post and Time Magazine and is publically outspoken about issues of race and inequality. Abdul-Jabbar is also a huge proponent for education, especially for younger students.
“Young people are our future,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “They are everything that we want to be in terms of the people that we want to see do better. I wanted to give American children an understanding of what black Americans have contributed to this country and to what makes this country great.”
Abdul-Jabbar has written over 30 books telling stories of his basketball career, his relationship with the legendary John Wooden and fictional stories about Mycroft Holmes. He currently serves as the chairman of his Skyhook Foundation where he works to bring educational STEM opportunities to students in disadvantaged communities. In 2012, he was named a Global Cultural Ambassador and in 2016 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“I realized I was a black American in elementary school when one of my students brought a polaroid camera to class,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “When the photo developed, that’s when I realized I was different. That was the first time the issue of race became obvious to me.”
The most wonderful human value is the willingness to sacrifice for others. — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
He credits growing up in the wake of the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement spurred by prominent black artists and writers, for his motivation for activism. In 1964, he had the opportunity to interview Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a crucial moment which helped solidify his desire to serve his community. Since, Abdul-Jabbar has worked to achieve equality of rights, specifically for African Americans.
The day after he won the NBA Championship with the Bucks, he changed his name from Lew Alcindor to the Muslim name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to take a stand for his beliefs. He believes in equality and respect for all people and chooses to keep an open mind to let a person’s character determine his views.
“The most important thing is to keep an open mind,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “You can’t look into someone’s soul and you can’t look into their mind – you have to let them show you that. And if you have an open mind, you have the ability to tell the quality of a person’s character. But you have to have an open mind and can’t be biased. Bias is the worst thing that throws us off the straight track.”
One current issue Abdul-Jabbar touched on is the current topic of whether or not college athletes should receive pay.
“College athletes should absolutely get paid because they’re exploited,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “The head of the NCAA makes $7 million a year, and the people who put the people in the seats might only get room, board and tuition for four years. It’s not equitable and it’s not fair. When I went to UCLA, even the people in the band got paid, but I didn’t get paid.”
Abdul-Jabbar wrapped up with a call to keep an open mind. He noted that if any prejudice is allowed to pass unchallenged, that all prejudice is endorsed.
For more information about the San Joaquin Valley Town Hall series, check out their website for dates and speaker info.
For more Feather articles on Town Hall, check out John Walsh shares tragedy, teaches from loss during SJV Town Hall and Journalist Michael Pollan visits San Joaquin Valley Town Hall.@thefeather, Instagram @thefeatheronline and Facebook @thefeatheronline.
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