Charles H. Wright Museum Logo
Posted by
Leah Johnson is a University of Michigan- Dearborn graduate and she has a B.A. d
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 29 May 2012
in Today in Black History

2012 Ford Freedom Awards highlighted importance of education

Leah Johnson recaps the roundtable talk at the recent 2012 Ford Freedom Awards. Basketball was inevitably a hot topic, but education will thoroughly discussed as well. 


It’s not everyday I get to attend a media roundtable with journalists in the city of Detroit.

But last week I got an opportunity to be what I am, a journalist, at the Ford Freedom Awards hosted by Ford Motor Company at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Talent, Tenacity, Teamwork

Each year, the Ford Freedom Award is given posthumously to those who have made an impact on the African American community in their chosen fields.

An honoree and scholar are also selected annually and presented to someone who furthers the vision of the Ford Freedom Award recipient.

The 2012 Ford Freedom Award was given to the Harlem Rens, the first all black, fully professional, African-American owned basketball team. The Ford Freedom Award Scholar was NBA leading scorer and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

On the Court

At the roundtable sat Mr. Abdul-Jabbar, Frank Washington (former Harlem Rens basketball player), Richard Bell (son of “Puggy” Bell who played for the Harlem Rens) and journalists that were full of questions.

It was only natural for basketball to be discussed, after all basketball stars were the highlight of the night.

Washington told us what things were like playing for an all-black team and how they had their struggles dealing with racism.

There was discussion addressing the fact that individual players of the Harlem Rens are not in the hall of fame.

“It’s a reflection of how people try to diminish the achievements of black Americans, said Abdul-Jabbar. “And that’s a travesty.”

“There’s no reason why certain black ball players are not in the hall of fame,” said Washington. “I know for a fact there are ball players in the hall of fame that can’t even carry my shoes!” he said, as everyone laughed.

The conversation then shifted toward something more important than a person’s ability to put a ball through a rim.

That important topic was education.


Malcolm X said : Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

If Brother Malcolm had been present in the media roundtable room he would have realized that some (in the world of sports) value education while others don’t.

Abdul-Jabbar made it clear that he always planned to go to college. He wishes more athletes today had similar feelings.

“I think most pro-athletes don’t take the same view of education,” he said. “Any athlete who goes to college certainly has an advantage.”

Washington admitted that he dropped out of school at an early age, but still made it clear that schooling is a matter of importance to him.

“I got an education you can’t get in school while being with the Rens,” he said.

The phrase “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” taken from the United Negro College Fund was the central message during the discussion of education’s importance.

Being present as this discussion ensued made me happy.

I was happy that I was there as a journalist.

But I was happier knowing that these talented men value their brain and knowledge more than the court and the game of  basketball.

Tags: Untagged
0 votes

Leah Johnson is a University of Michigan- Dearborn graduate and she has a B.A. degree in Communication. In college, she minored in Psychology and African American Studies after developing a love her history, culture and African American literature. She currently works in the Communication and Marketing Department at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Two of Leah's "She-ros" are Ida B. Wells Barnett, the fearless journalist who exposed the truth about lynching, and Madame CJ Walker, the first self-made African American female millionaire. "I love these women because they were determined and did what was necessary to succeed and defend the truth. That lets me know that I can be a successful African American woman as well," said Leah.

In her spare time, Leah enjoys traveling, bowling, shoe shopping, and spending time with friends and family.