Welcome to the Chocolate City, the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C.
In my case, it’s welcome back. I spent a few years there as a student at Howard University, and last weekend, I journeyed down to support the home team at the third AT&T Nation’s Football Classic. The event was created to celebrate the passion and tradition of the college football experience; recognize the history of service to others by the students, faculty and alumni of historically Black colleges and universities; highlight the unity of African-American culture; and honor the heritage and excellence of these proud institutions.
As a sidebar, it looks as if another tradition is underway as the Howard Bison once again prevailed for a third year in a row. The game was the height of an entire weekend of educational and entertaining events that began Thursday, Sept. 5 and included a presidential symposium, AT&T Kickoff Rally, Howard vs. Morehouse student debate and the Pepsi Fan Festival. Notable celebrity guest stars and performers included Grammy-nominated recording artist Ciara, who headlined the AT&T Kickoff Rally, and entertainment personality Fonzworth Bentley and actress Wendy Raquel Robinson, who co-hosted the rally. Grammy-nominated singer Raheem DeVaughn, E.U. and Mambo Sauce performed at the Pepsi Fan Festival.
While most of the crowd of 17,000 had a rooting interest in the game, hopefully, for a pocket of attendees, the game had more significance. Events DC donated 1,500 tickets to the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic to area youth.
“The AT&T Nation’s Football Classic is an event for the entire community,” said Erik A. Moses, managing director of Events DC’s sports and entertainment division. “As a celebration of education as well as athletics, we want young people in the District of Columbia to have an opportunity to experience the great traditions, heritage and culture of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”
One of the beneficiaries of the ticket allotment was the College Success FoundationDC’s HERO program, which identifies promising young men of color and encourages them to think about college before they make critical decisions that limit their choices.
“On behalf of the College Success Foundation-DC, we sincerely thank Events DC for their generous donation of tickets to this year’s AT&T Nation’s Football Classic,” said Herb Tillery, executive director of College Success Foundation-DC. “Their gift will give these middle and high school young men the experience of real college life and extracurricular activities.”
Additionally, students at District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) were in the house. “We are so grateful for the generous donation of tickets to the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic, which will allow our students to see this game live,” said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “It’s a game full of tradition and excitement and one that will create lasting memories for our students.”
For Henderson, her efforts in and around the Washington, D.C., area are being noticed by some people in high, high places, such as the first lady of the United States of America. Henderson, North America Reebok President Uli Becker, future NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and Olympians Allyson Felix and Dominique Dawes joined Michelle Obama at Orr Elementary in D.C. to announce new commitments around Let’s Move! Active Schools, which aims to get physical activity back into schools.
Orr Elementary School was cited as a great example of what schools all across the country are doing to provide healthier environments for kids. Not only has Orr successfully implemented the new healthy school lunch standards, but they’ve already started providing healthier snacks in vending machines—a move all schools will make starting next school year. Orr also has physical education classes and participates in BOKS, an initiative of Reebok and the Reebok Foundation that incorporates physical activity and nutrition into programming for kids before the school day.
To the parents and educators in attendance, Obama encouraged, “We have to remember that it’s our job as responsible adults in their lives to make the hard decisions to keep them healthy. It’s our job to say, ‘No, you cannot have a candy bar for breakfast,’ and ‘Yes, you have to eat some vegetables every day,’ and ‘No, you can’t sit around playing video games all day—go outside and run.’ That’s our job. That’s on us.”
She concluded, “Kids complain about everything. Many kids complain about having to learn math or science, right? They complain about having to read a book or write a paper on a topic they don’t like. But as educators and parents, we don’t just give in and say, ‘Well, OK, no more homework, no test tomorrow. ‘You’re off the hook because you’re sad about it.’
“We wouldn’t dream of doing that, because we know that learning how to add and subtract and read and write—these things aren’t negotiable. We know that they need those skills in order to succeed in life. Well, the same thing is true for good nutrition, physical activity—because those tools are the foundation that they need to grow up healthy and to do well in school, and to build families and careers of their own one day.”
I felt guilty about that Super Big Gulp I had in the car, but I had to get back home. Sorry. I’m out. Holla next week. Until then, enjoy the nightlife.