Keeping Arthur’s Spirit and Work Alive
By Dr. Alpha Alexander
As we celebrate, with this issue, the memory of Arthur Ashe and what was important to him, I have to ask the question: What would Arthur be thinking now if he were alive? Shortly before his death, Arthur and I visited a public housing development in Harlem. We were meeting a young man, raised by a single parent, who was an outstanding New York City basketball athlete. The student-athlete had choices of attending either Harvard or one of the other Ivy League institutions. Arthur gave this young man some advice and his words still ring in my ears. He told the young man if he could write and communicate well, he would go far on whatever roads he chose.
Arthur developed the Arthur Ashe Athletic Association to help high-school athletes achieve their goals of receiving higher education degrees. Arthur believed that athletes served important roles in their communities as mentors for younger students and athletes, and he encouraged athletes to pledge to be role models in all aspects of their lives, both on and off the court.
Arthur Ashe was one of those rare people who achieved greatness as both a renowned athlete and a renowned scholar. He was well respected and liked by all who knew him, and he followed the advice he had given to the young man from Harlem. Arthur was remarkably skilled at networking with people from all sectors of life and he used his skill to accomplish goals to benefit society.
The academic world is still confronting some of the issues Arthur worked to improve: affirmative action, Title IX, NCAA graduation rates and diversity. But there has been progress. I wonder what Arthur would say about the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, Lisa Leslie and even the fact that a Black man was recently the CEO of the United States Olympic Committee. I know he would be proud of these individuals’ achievements. Fortunately, his work continues in the hands of the many people whose lives he touched.
I also know that Arthur would see that, even with the successes we have made in the last 10 years, the need to continue his work is even more important today than before his untimely death. I, for one, will follow his example and continue striving to positively impact young people through mentoring, role modeling and emphasizing the importance of knowing how to write and communicate effectively.
Arthur, my friend, you are truly missed. We will remember you as we continue in your footsteps.
Dr. Alpha Alexander, a former scholar-athlete (basketball and volleyball, College of Wooster) and sports psychologist, is the new executive director of Knoxville’s Promise, an affiliate of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s philanthropic youth organization America’s Promise. She also is the former president of the Arthur Ashe Athletics Association.
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