If someone were to ask me: “Where did you get your game from?” Naturally I would reflect upon the players who have influenced me on the court. Steve Nash’s passing ability and Allen Iverson’s heart are two examples that come to mind, but when I really think about it? I got it from my mother. At 10 months she put me in a Scottie Pippen jersey to go along with the basketball hoop bracketed onto my crib; there wasn’t a shot I didn’t make. She bought every-single basketball the 76ers team store sold, knowing they would pile up in the house and nearly put a dent in the floor from constant hours of dribbling. Eventually, this game transformed onto the floors of the gyms in Lower Merion, to countless cities around the country on the AAU circuit, and now in college arenas. She drove an astonishing number of miles and hours, taking time off of work to ensure that I had an outlet. I have been afforded the luxury of creating lifelong connections and friendships and I am forever thankful that she was the one who put the first basketball in my hands.
While instrumental in my development as a person, basketball is not the game I’m referring to: it’s the game of life. Growing up in a single-parent household I have come to understand three concepts: sacrifice, selflessness, and The Village. The sacrifice and selflessness were displayed day in and day out by my mother and grandmother who provided me with any essential I needed to develop into the young man I have become today and The Village: the assemblage of people in our lives who continue to ease the journey of a single mother and her son. As influential and vital as the male role models and mentors have been in my life thus far, my Village is comprised of women. Both of my grandmothers, their mothers, aunts, cousins, friends of the family, each one of them women that thrive in any setting no matter who is in the room. I was never told to behave in a specific manner, nor was I pressured to act a certain way to become a man, but all of these women in the way they conducted themselves and treated others showed me first-hand how to simply become a good person.
I could create a never-ending list, but it’s women like Carla, Margaret, Lana, Sue, Lygea, Karen, Yanina, Jewel, Crystal, Petra, Tiesha, Joy, Chanel, Shirley, Christine, Pat, Gilda, Myra, Vanessa, Blanche, Lucky, Debra, Jackie, Laura, Lori, Gail, Lydia, Michele, Barbara, Denise, Melissa, Carolyn, Iva, Butterfly, Lauren, Joni, Nancy, Kenya, Tameeka, Lucille, Yanell, Trina, Tyisha, Rachel, Amy, Kelli, Gloriajean, Sheila, Mimi, Deborah, Cicily, Michele, Cazzie, Bonnie, Bernice, Atiya, Mashea, Saleema, Andrea, Tanya, Larissa, Auntie, Terri, Angie, Pam, Jill, Amy, Fran, and many others who have helped me get this far. I share these names because at the moment there are too many women, ones near and dear to my heart, that are making a significant impact in our society, but continue to be denied opportunities because they are women. In the workplace, on the court, on the field, on the street, our leaders are not doing all they can to make gender equality attainable. I am writing this to tell our men, who serve as the majority in leadership positions: we need to wake up. The women leading this fight can not be the only ones using their voices and platforms to speak about this prevalent issue in our society. Gender equality has become an even bigger challenge in large part due to men who are refusing to speak up for our women who make this country run. I personally have a long way to go to fully understand what gender equality is and how I can contribute with my male privilege to help uplift female spaces. What I believe I can do now is take the examples set by my mother and the women that mean so much to me and begin by vocally letting it be known that it is ok for males to be supportive of women’s rights. We will not be able to reach the end goal of gender equality without first being committed to fairness of treatment for all women.
Men: we must take take action. Read about the ways in which women continue to be forced to take a backseat to men. Stop and inquire about how you can get involved in women’s rights activism. Understand that male privilege is real, learn what it means to have male privilege, and recognize how it affects women; it has a greater impact than you believe. Do not be afraid to speak up about the inequalities between men and women, but also do not be afraid to celebrate the great accomplishments women consistently make. Challenge other men to rise to the occasion and set the standard.
As I enter my final two college semesters, I do fear life after graduation and the uncertainty the future holds. Then I realize, I was raised by women. Strong women who scratch and claw their way through a male-dominated society to make an impact and have their voices be both heard and valued. It is through this upbringing that I believe I can make an impact on gender equality. I will because my Village continues to defy stereotypes and overcome obstacles.
Written by: Jule Brown, PYB Corporate Intern & rising senior at New York University