By Shirley Hawkins
CARSON — There was everything from haircuts to health screenings Sept. 8 when an estimated 3,000 men gathered on the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus for the second annual 2018 KJLH Men’s Empowerment Summit.
The summit featured numerous community resources, a slate of guest speakers and panel discussions covering such topics as mentoring youth, racism, relationship advice, building generational wealth, and mental health and criminal justice reform.
“Please stay woke today — you’ll hear something that’s going to change your life,” advised state Sen. Steve Bradford, a supporter of the summit.
The keynote speaker was nationally recognized attorney Benjamin Lloyd Crump, who won acclaim through representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, people who lost their lives in high-profile cases.
The celebrated attorney said he is shocked and appalled at the number of officer-involved shootings of black males that had been captured on video but seldom led to convictions.
“There was Eric Garner in New York who was locked in a chokehold and killed by police,” he recalled. “There was 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing on the playground and the police gunned that baby down in the snow. There was Terence Crutcher, who was shot and killed in broad daylight with his hands up. There was Michael Brown, who was shot on the top of his head.
“We see all these videos and they go into the secret grand jury procedures and the outcome is always, ‘Technically, the police didn’t violate policy. They were legally justified to shoot.’”
Pausing, he gravely observed, “This happens in America every day of the week.”
Crump said he was concerned about the “crazy outcomes’ in the criminal justice system.
“Poor black and brown people are sent away for years because of the war on drugs,” he said. “They are charged with using crack cocaine and are given stiffer sentences than the more affluent users of powder cocaine who can afford a lawyer and can post bail.
“We have an obligation to say, ‘You keep sending us to jail instead of rehabilitation.’ They send our people to prison by the busloads so that they don’t poison the community, but then you go to Flint, Michigan and they poison the community with tainted water and no one went to prison.
“You see the black children handcuffed and charged with a felony conviction that they will have to bear for the rest of their lives. If you have a felony conviction, you can’t get a decent job because you need certification to become a beautician or a plumber. Once you are convicted of a felony, you can’t even get life insurance. You become one of the walking dead — you just didn’t get the death certificate yet.”
Crump also said that voter suppression is rising in America.
“A sister went to cast her vote for Obama and they charged her with a crime and put her in prison for five years. But a white woman who voted twice for Trump got five months’ probation.”
Pausing, he said, “When we see this kind of injustice, we have an obligation to do something about it. Our children are watching us. It could be your child next,” said Crump, adding that he had just been contacted by the family of Botham Jean, the 26-year-old man shot in his apartment by off-duty police officer Amber Guyger in Dallas.
“My heart is heavy. We have an obligation to let our young people know that their lives matter.”
CBS2 Sports anchor Jim Hill moderated the Sports Legends panel that included former NBA players Jim Clemons and Mack Calvin; former NFL players Willie McGinest and Marcellus Wiley; and former NBA referee Derek Richardson.
The room was filled with sports fans and dozens of football athletes hoping to reap nuggets of wisdom from their heroes.
The panelists discussed how they mentally and physically prepared to perform at the top level of their professional careers and the trials and tribulations they faced to get there.
“I used to lug around books and people called me the nerd and said that I was trying to act white,” said Wiley, who grew up in Compton and South L.A. and went on to play for the Buffalo Bills. “I grew up when there was real gang banging going on and I was constantly getting bullied by these gangsters.”
Wiley said his grandmother instructed him to write down on a piece of paper three things that made him special.
“I wrote I’m smart, athletic and nice,” he recalled. “She said, ‘fold that paper up and keep it under your bed and always remember your best qualities.’”
Wiley said that remaining persistent helped him in his career.
“And you can be the same,” he advised the audience. “Identify what you want. For 11 years, I got paid football money just to talk about sports,” said Wiley, a former commentator for ESPN.
“Pursuing a pro career is going to be tough, but gas yourself up. Football is the goal, but put those books right up there, too.”
Clemons told the audience, “Sports doesn’t necessarily build character, it rebuilds character. Anything worth pursuing takes discipline. There’s always going to be distractions. You have to say, ‘Sorry, there is something I need to do.’”
Calvin recalls that he had a rough childhood.
“We grew up in Imperial Courts, in the projects. We moved 5 or 6 times because we were always being evicted. At one time, we were homeless. My dad was an alcoholic and physically abused my mom.”
Pausing, he added, “Sports have been a miracle for me. It’s taught me integrity, character and to never quit.”
Calvin observed that many professional athletes get caught up in the glitz and glamour of playing and torpedo their careers.
“They come into the league and they start to party,” he said. “They chase young ladies and eventually they burn themselves out. You have to figure out a pattern. Do the same thing every day. You must develop a good work ethic and you need to have discipline.”
“You need to get eight hours of sleep because if you’re working out, you’re going to be tired.”
Calvin warned that the career of a pro athlete is short lived.
“If you get to the pros, you might play 3 to 7 years—so that’s why it’s so important to get that education.”
Clemons said, “Eating right and getting your rest is important. Remember to eat properly and stay hydrated.”
Hill concluded the discussion by staging an impromptu demonstration of how to treat a young lady when out on a date. The young athletes raptly watched as he motioned KJLH radio personality Adai Lamar to approach the front of the room. He then advised the audience,
“Pull out her chair just as she is about to sit down,” as Lamar took her seat. “Then stand up again and pull out her chair if she leaves the room.”
As the audience thunderously applauded, Hill gallantly cradled Lamar’s arm as they grandly strolled down the aisle.
“Now, that’s what I call being civil,” Hill said.