There’s a First Time for Everything
It’s taken me a while to throw my hat in the ring for this year’s Black Excellence Month series. At first I was trying to make a post out of whole cloth. I was wracking my brain on things to highlight about Black folk that wouldn’t be redundant and would pique you folks’ interest. Needless to say, I was grasping at straws. I considered writing on the slaves that helped build the White House and the Capitol. That yielded nothing. Then it hit me. Instead of looking outward for a subject, I should look inward. Some of the best posts on this blog come from our own personal experiences. So does this one. My Subject: Mr. Perry Wallace.
If the name isn’t ringing immediate bells in your mind, fear not. I didn’t know at first either. Mr. Wallace is the Black guy on the right, playfully tousling his teammates hair. He played Division I Basket ball for Vanderbilt. And beginning with the 1967 season, he was the FIRST black athlete in any sport in the SEC. Yes, that SEC. The Southeastern Conference of the NCAA. The very same one that is today a powerhouse in football and many other sports largely due to the contributions of Black players. I mean, think about it: when was the last time you saw an SEC game and didn’t see Black folk dunking or running for 50+ yards per carry? Well, it all started with this man here. This video, and Henry Louis Gates can explain it better than I can.
As you saw, Mr. Wallace played for Vanderbilt, and all the spectators wanted to do was hurl racial epithets at him. Hell, even his teammates acted as if nothing was happening when Wallace returned to the locker room. The very idea of a Black man on the court was repugnant to those in the Deep South. Imagine people having that attitude today. This wasn’t that long ago. If you saw the Fab Five 40 for 40 ESPN documentary, you know that even into the 90s, the idea of star, Black athletes still did not sit well with White folk. Beyond his athetic prowess, what makes Wallace even greater in my eyes are his other accomplishments:
Going to Columbia Law School and becoming a law professor.
That’s how Professor Wallace first came to my attention. He was my professor for Business Associations just last semester. With an imposing presence and a resounding voice, he commanded attention. Despite what may have been intimidating to some, Professor Wallace is kind-hearted to those of all races. His anecdotes in class drawing from his long history in the Department of Justice and practice delighted my [Black] friends and me. He’ll tell you about handling major cases as soon as he’ll tell you about meeting Muhammad Ali. There’s an event happening at my law school tonight that is entitled “A New Frontier of Civil Rights.” Mr. Wallace is speaking first. He is a direct bridge between the time when you knew who the racists were because they were threatening you with lynching, firebombings, and hosings, and racism as it is manifested in today’s society: systemically in the Justice system as well as other facets of American life. Do some searching and find out more about this Great Man.
Continue to Question the World Around You.