Monday, May 15, 2017
On his double-platinum debut album Ready to Die, the late Notorious B.I.G. offered the following commentary about life in Brooklyn.
"The Streets is a short stop; Either you slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot."
The line is delivered without any hint of boasting. The legendary New York City emcee is simply stating that escaping the poverty and violence of the inner city isn't easy. For those who do escape, from B.I.G.'s viewpoint, it's either by embracing the criminal underworld (slinging crack rock) or being so good at a sport that a coach comes with scholarship in hand and "rescues" you (got a wicked jumpshot).
The same sentiment, tweaked and reworded, has been echoed for decades by dozens of hip-hop artists.
When Biggie penned those lyrics, he stated them as a truism, a statement that all things being equal generally holds true.
Of course, there are exceptions.
This year, I read Ron Suskind's A Hope In the Unseen, a fantastic book that follows teenager Cedric Jennings from Washington, D.C.'s Ballou High School to Brown, an academic elite Ivy
The book vividly chronicles how Jennings, an inner-city kid who grew up in poverty, pursues academics as a way out of the hood. (Everyone should read this book, or get the audio book from your local library).
Keon Scott's story isn't exactly Cedric Jennings' story.
But it's not all that far off, either.
Scott was a slender guard with a silky smooth game, and the type of jumpshot that the Notorious B.I.G. described in Things Done Changed. A former star at Robert E. Lee in Staunton, Scott was a key cog during the school's 85-game winning streak written about in Patrick Hite's excellent book The Staunton Streak. Scott was also an all-state performer as a senior.
But Scott didn't graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University (political science degree) in the winter of 2016 because of his jumpshot. It was because of his brain.
Stories like Scott's are why I miss journalism.
But his story is also difficult to tell.
The difficulty of telling Scott's story well is telling it without telling anyone else's story.
Scott has a mom (Lynette) and a grandmother (Wanda) that would literally run around the world for him twice, and other family members that form a loving and support group for him. However, not everyone in his circle of friends and family has avoided the traps of the street life, or the consequences that come with those traps.
You will have to hear that part of the story from Scott, if he chooses to share. That's his story to tell, not mine.
Scott wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. And although he did play a little junior college basketball at Potomac State, it was his academics and not his athletics that put him in the position he's in now.
I've left out dozens of fascinating details about Scott's journey, which includes time at Piedmont Virginia Community College. We'll leave it at an inspiration overview. I want to focus on what I hope, for our community's sake, happens next in the Keon Scott story.
First, I hope that people in the business of inspiring kids in our community will bring him in to speak to kids. Here's a guy that pursued his athletic dreams with great success, but at the end of the day used education to get ahead in life.
Second, I hope that businesses in our community will literally fight to see who can hire Scott first.
Here's what absolutely can't happen. We can't cheer for him playing basketball in a Lee High uniform, and when he does everything we ask of him to be successful, not be a contributor to that success.
Parenthetically, my good friends Tony Davenport, Kendrick Kier and I have been dreaming of creating a local urban networking group to create a support base for people just like Scott.
A young man with a great jumpshot, and an even better mind.