By Dr. Stephanie E. Myers and Daun S. Hester
For eight years America, and the world witnessed a dignified,elegant First Family led by President Barack Obama, the first African American President,of the United States. Barack and Michelle Obama led the country with dignity,elegance, intelligence and integrity. And, on February 24, 2020, Barack Obama’s legacy was replicated at the official Memorial Service of Kobe Bryant, at theStaples Center in Los Angeles, where an audience of thousands paid tribute toKobe Bryant, one of the most accomplished men in the history of basketball.
As the 2020 Black History Month wraps up, one takeaway from thetragedy and sadness of the loss of Kobe Bryant, is the demonstration of hisachievements as a 41-year-old father, husband, son, businessman, giant inglobal sports and much more.
As former National Co-Chairs of Black Women for Obama who workedfor his election and re-election, we have always been proud that PresidentBarack Obama smashed the glass ceiling of negative images of Black men and replaced those images with strength, intelligence, success and integrity. For eight years, the nation witnessed President Barack Obama as a loving husband and “Girl Dad,” who supported his daughters Malia and Sasha, who are now college students at Harvard University and the University of Michigan.
It should not be overlooked that President Obama provided a rolemodel for Kobe Bryant, his wife Vanessa and their four daughters to follow.Kobe and Vanessa were able to see Barack and Michelle as a loving, fashionable couple, whose love for their daughters radiated through the airwaves. This positive imagery helped established a standard for Kobe and Vanessa and many other young people, who often have to negotiate difficult family experiences.
One of the most powerful images that came across to us, fromKobe’s Memorial Service was the presence of giants in U.S. sports history,including Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Bill Russell, MagicJohnson, Shaquille O’Neal and many more. These multi-millionaire men-most ofwhom are family men, were competitors of Kobe Bryant yet, they rose above thepetty, competitive behavior that often comes with sports, to show brotherhood,respect and elegance. Michael Jordan’s teary expressions of love for Kobeshowed the importance he placed on being a Mentor for Kobe, whom he called hislittle brother. A true tribute to Kobe would be for millions of men to followthe examples of President Obama, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and theoutstanding athletes who assembled, and to become mentors for our young men andwomen.
Unfortunately, for too long, Hollywood and professional sports haspromoted thuggish images of Black men in films and on television. Black menhave been portrayed over and over as criminals or silly comedians. And, even insports we see images of grown men portrayed as “post-adolescents”running around on playing fields, in shorts with little portrayal of theremarkable other parts of their lives that we saw at Kobe’s service. Sure,there are positive images of Black men historically like Carter G. Woodson, Dr.Martin Luther King, Colin Powell, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and our ownfathers, husbands and male relatives. But, far too often the positive imagesare outweighed in the media by negative images of Black men committingthuggery, crime and violence.
Kobe Bryant’s service demonstrated that Barack Obama’s legacyworked, and new doors are opening with new appreciation for the brilliant,businessmen and women who are achieving wealth, demonstrating compassion andother great things. We hope millions of young people will walk through the newdoors that are opening-with support from parents, families, mentors andcommunities. Let’s encourage our young men and women to look for the doors ofopportunity found by President Barack Obama, Kobe Bryant and the role models ofmen displayed at the Kobe Bryant Memorial.
Authors: Dr. Stephanie Myers, national co-chair, Black Women for PositiveChange; author of the book, “Invisible Queen: Mixed Race HeritageRevealed www.myerspublishing.com, and Daun S. Hester, National Co-Chair,Black Women for Positive Change; Treasurer, City of Norfolk, Virginia.