Guest Blogger Rick Sowell
Growing up, for the first 9 years of my life, I lived in a city named Elmira, NY.* Elmira is located about 2 hours south of Syracuse, 2 hours east of Rochester and about 4 hours northwest of New York City, also called the Southern Tier region of New York. Elmira was an area where many African Americans had settled over the years. I can still remember my father cutting hair every Saturday morning down in our basement because he was one of few who could cut hair. Our basement would be packed with fathers and sons, both getting haircuts. Living in Elmira I grew-up around many Afro-Americans. Elementary school was integrated and there was always someone to play with after school.
*Fred Opie: Elmira, New York was also the hometown of the late Ernie Davis, the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy, and the person featured in the film The Express. This is a must see film along with Jim Brown All-American, a Spike Lee documentary. Jim Brown helped persuade Davis to go Syracuse when he had fifty scholarship offers. There are scenes in the movie The Express shot in Elmira’s 1950s and 1960s African American community. Jim Brown All American provides the only film footage to date that this historian has scene with big Jim playing lacrosse at Syracuse. The documentary shows Brown wining a face off and then going down to score. The film also includes interviews with Brown’s Syracuse teammates, Roy Simmons Jr. and Oren Lyons; and a scene with these three SU lacrosse alum and All Americans having a catch out on Coyne Field on the campus of Syracuse University. You can purchase a copy of both films on DVD on line. The films are a great way to introduce lacrosse to athletic directors and football coaches who are reluctant to support the start of a lacrosse program; especially high schools in the south and southwest with a spring football season. It’s also would work equally well in introducing African American communities to lacrosse. Here's a utube clip in which Jim Brown talks about Ernie Davis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWWkaH9PRCs