“Stardom Doesn’t Change Where You’re From: Amid reports of gang ties, the Eagles cut DeSean Jackson. I grew up with him. I believe him to be a good person. I also know why NFL players from inner-city neighborhoods like mine in L.A. keep friends from when we were nobodies”


Thanks (Diona Howard-Nicolas)….Thanks D; as the author correctly states in his opening, we may not have all of the facts in this case. There is always a danger when taking a stand that you perhaps don’t have all of the information, and I am really not sure what information that the Eagles organization have in their possession. I think however I part with him on the idea that Black “celebrities” or “non-celebrities” must labor under a different set of social rules. It is very natural to lose and gain friends as one moves through life. This may have less to do with “looking down” on folks, and more to do with a change in social and professional interest. Perhaps you joined a sorority, professional organization, become a parent or developed an interest in bowling, gulf or archery; these actions may create a new set of friends that match your present interests in life. This is quite different from going back to the old neighborhood and ignoring and disrespecting your old friends. Further, this goes both ways, when I became a highly visible educator in the community; many of my old teenage buddies respected and understood what that meant for how I wanted to represent myself in public. For example: I once went back to visit my old neighborhood and an old friend said: “Michael I read about what you are doing with young people; I can’t get into your car.” I never inquired as to why, and he never offered, but I suspect that he was in the possession of “something”, and he did not want to hurt my work in the community. On that day I felt that we were mutually respectful of each other. I am always alert to the “double-standards” Black folks must face in America, and so why are we forced to have the same friends for life; as a sign of our “keeping it real”, or “not selling out”. Are White folks ever accused of “not keeping it real?” My thoughts as I grew into manhood was less about keeping it real with my old neighborhood buddies and more about how I could transform the neighborhood for the better by creating opportunities for the children of my old buddies to enjoy success. I wanted to make a significant contribution to the positive and empowering educational life of my community… If “celebrities” committed to similar acts then I would not care what their old, or new buddies thought…


P.S. You are absolutely correct in asserting that the phrase “nobodies” is very problematic; understanding as we do, the link between speech and thought; but I also submit to you that the use of the phrase is also very revealing as to this unfair psychological  burden that  “successful” Young Black Folks must carry throughout their lives. One is actually “somebody” prior to joining the NFL, earning an acting part on Broadway, signing a record deal, etc. Our “somebodiness” is God given, and we can only enhance or diminished it by how we act regardless of our job title. This fundamental misunderstanding of the importance of an identity outside of a “job title” is troubling. It also is symptomatic of a core concern; is it: “I play for the NFL, NBA, etc. and therefore I am?” Or is there an “I am” who’s chosen area of expertise is the NFL and NBA?  We critique and perhaps even (To continue the metaphor) penalize Black professional athletes utilizing the wrong criteria. Why is maintaining an old lifestyle useful? And can the multi-million dollar corporation called LeBron James; really and authentically just act like any “brother in the hood” (whatever that means)?  It is as if these young men and women are being called on to pay some type of emotional penance for having achieved some level of success in a chosen area of their expertise. It is simply a case of unfair treatment. I want to judge them on what they  do of a positive nature with their money and influence.