Youth UpRising was invited to attend the FPAF's 11th Annual Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Salute to Excellence Awards this past Thursday, February 4th at 5:00PM at the JW Marriott in San Francisco. The Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation promotes diversity and equality of job opportunity within coaching, front office staffing and scouting in the National Football League through networking and mentoring opportunities as well as education and advocacy around rules and practices that foster diversity.
We were excited to be a part of an event honoring diversity in athletic leadership and highlighting excellence in its many forms. Two of our staff members, Hannah and Shakeea, along with six of our youth who are members of our after school program and Castlemont High School's football team, had the opportunity to attend. Adam, John-Paul, Jeremiah, Dakari, Darren and Will had the opportunity to meet Hall of Fame Linebacker, Harry Carson, Head Football Coach at Stanford University, David Shaw as well as a coach with Laney College and a scout with the 49ers.
At first, much of the excitement came from eating delicious sliders and drinking unlimited soda, but then, our staff witnessed true interest in what was being said about the accomplishments of people of color within coaching, ownership and administration of the NFL. Event attendees were also primarily people of color. Staff reflected on what a positive experience it was for our youth to see individuals who look like them dressed up, eating “fancy appetizers” and being honored. Of course, such a scene should be the norm, but unfortunately, highlighting the accomplishments of people of color is not a common sight. On the contrary, our young people often see black and brown people portrayed negatively in public and in the media via trite stereotypes. It was great for the students to be exposed to a different atmosphere than what they are often surrounded by in East Oakland and witness the recognition of successful people who look like them.
Our After School Coordinator within Career & Education, Hannah, shared that one of her biggest highlights was seeing Jim Brown and learning more about his story, his connection to Malcolm X and his role in the fight for social justice. We are excited our youth had the opportunity to practice networking, hear from NFL leaders and the officiates for Super Bowl 50 and enjoy an evening out in San Francisco.