Thursday, January 13, 2011

Basketball Firsts and a Sisterhood of Service

On January 13 in Black History...

In 1953, Don Barksdale became the first Black person to play in an NBA All-Star Game.  He was a pioneer with a number of African-American firsts to his credit.  A 6'6" center at UCLA, he became the first African American to be named consensus All-American in 1947. Barksdale was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter organization established for African Americans.  In 1948, he was the first African American to play with the U.S. Olympic team. He joined the team in Basketball at the 1948 Summer Olympics. He became the first Africa-American basketball player to win a gold medal in the Summer Olympics.   In 1948, he became the first black radio disc jockey in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also worked in television and owned a beer distributorship. He became the first African-American beer distributor in the Bay Area. He became the first African American television host in the Bay Area with a show called Sepia Review on KRON-TV.  After his basketball career ended, he returned to radio, started his own recording label, and opened two nightclubs in Oakland. 

In 1983, he launched Save High School Sports Foundation, which is credited with helping to save Oakland school athletic programs from collapse.  In February, Bounce: The Don Barksdale Story is scheduled to be broadcast on FSN Bay Area. The documentary was produced by Doug Harris for Athletes United for Peace, a Berkeley-based youth sports and media organization.  The Wire character D'Angelo Barksdale is named in honour of him.

Read this 1991 interview with Barksdale here:

In 1913, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded at Howard University by twenty-two collegiate women at Howard University. These students wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide assistance to persons in need. The first public act performed by the Delta Founders involved their participation in the Women's Suffrage March in Washington D.C., March 1913. Delta Sigma Theta was incorporated in 1930.

Delta Sigma Theta has continued its tradition of service through a plethora of programs.  For example, the sorority was the first national African-American organization to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity International in 1992, during Delta President Bertha Roddey's administration. Habitat for Humanity builds and rehabilitates homes with the help of selected homeowners, volunteer labor, management expertise, and tax-deductible donations of money and materials. Houses are sold to families without profit, and no-interest mortgages are issued over a fixed period. Between 1992-1994, Delta Sigma Theta and Habitat for Humanity built twenty-two homes throughout the United States. In 1996, sorority members and supporters traveled to Ghana, where they built forty Delta Habitat for Humanity homes.

Notable members include Selma Burke, Shirley Chisholm, Ruby Dee Davis, Dorothy I. Height and Barbara Jordan.

The original artwork pictured above is a life sized painting on canvas created by artist Tarleton Blackwell. The original hangs in the National Headquarters Office in Washington, D.C.

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