A Racially Biased Decision Reversed…. For Now

Pictured from left: Majority Leader Crystal Peoples Stokes, Marqwan Fluitt South Park High School,Steve McDuffie Bennett High Coach,  Council President Darius Pridgen, Nashon Oliver  #54 Bennett High School, Richard Heard #71 Bennett High School and State Senator Tim Kennedy .

“A lot of things  are at stake. It’s not   hardly over. We’ve  got to fight  like never before. – Charley H. Fisher, Coalition For Fair, Free  and Equitable Athletics

In a show of unity not seen in decades in this city, the Black community  rose up as one  to demand justice. This time on behalf of our youth.

The Coalition for Fair, Free and Equitable Athletics chaired by Dwayne O. Taplin, sprang into action once they learned  of the racially biased decision by the Section VI Football Federation  to  exclude city football teams – notably Bennett, Burgard, Hutch-Tech, McKinley and South Park –  from competing in league play against suburban and rural teams.

 Two well attended community gatherings were held by the Committee; the most recent being last Friday at the  St.  John Family Life Center.  The purpose of those meetings   was to coordinate community-led efforts to overturn the vote from Section VI and to build support around this critical issue.

 At the same time there were others at work –  elected officials citizens and organizations – to  address  the issue.

By the time  the  press conference was held at Bennett High School on Dr. Martin Luther King’s  Birthday this past Monday, everybody was on board including Mayor Brown, Assembly Majority Leader  Crystal Peoples Stokes, Council  President Pridgen, Senator Tim Kennedy, the Coalition for Fair Free and Equitable Athletics, MVP, School Board members, parent and community groups, elected officials, former Bills legends Booker Edgerson and Thurman Thomas, community media groups,  coaches, players and parents.

 Mayor Brown was firm as he admonished the  powers that be  in the spirit of  Dr. King, to do the right thing as he called  for a “prompt, equitable solution” to the matter.     “The time is always right to do what is right,”  he said quoting Dr. King.

 Majority Leader   Peoples-Stokes   called the Section V1 controversy “probably one of the most important issues that will impact us this  year.”    

“Now is not the time to step backwards, but to step forward to include people – not exclude” she said addressing Section VI leaders. “Keep  it positive and change this decision!”  

Senator Tim Kennedy referred to the  issue as “an unfortunate disparity taking place right before our eyes…this   decision is not right and needs to be reversed.”  

Football Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas,   a youth spokesperson,   and Council President  Darius Pridgen also spoke and called for unity and equity.   

Former Legislator  and We Are Women Warriors founder, Betty Jean Grant, speaking to the Challenger after the press conference, made it plain. 

“When you exclude Buffalo (from the league)  you exclude the majority of African American  football players,” said Grant.  “Is it racism? Yes it is!  Is it discrimination?  Yes it is! But for Dr. King Day let’s go forward and restore   our youth to Section VI football!”

-Just For a Season?-

The groundswell from this community and  its supporters  apparently made an impact. 

Before the day ended the local governing body for Section VI high school sports  agreed to delay the changes for next season.

 But what about  the seasons to follow?

“A lot of things are at stake…,”   community activist Charley Fisher told the challenger Tuesday morning.   “We still got to fight…it’s not  hardly over . We’ve  got to fight  like never before.”

Among other things, Buffalo, he said, must  have representation going forward.  “We should have  8 of the 32 memberships and we should have at least 2  of those executive committee memberships.” 

He said the actions of the Section V1 are nothing short of “blatant racism and blatant isolation of our kids.”

 “On Monday MLK’s  birthday they  did as requested – rescinded the action, but they did not move the goal post. They’re not saying  they’re not giving this up. ” 

Strong coalitions  made up of parents, coaches, community leaders, elected  officials youth and more are critical now and are going to be critical  in the future, said Fisher. 

  (In addition to  Fisher who serves  as Recorder/Secretary, and Dwayne O. Taplin as  Chair of The Coalition for Fair, Free and Equitable Athletics, Patrick Freeman is  parliamentarian and Historian and Richard Cummings , Treasurer.)