Recently, Alabama State University (ASU) was trounced by the Jackson State University (JSU) football team, led by Deion “Prime Time” Sanders.
The scoreboards’ final tally of 26-12 displayed a whooping that clearly riled ASU Head Coach Eric Robinson Jr. before a sold-out homecoming crowd. So much so, that after the customary coach handshake, Coach Sanders went in to embrace Coach Robinson and was stopped short when he put a hand to Coach Sanders’ chest. Sanders, rightfully affronted, pushed Robinson’s hand from contact and a trading of barbs ensued.
To make matters worse, video of ASU players shouting profanity while Coach Sanders did his customary field walk made its way to the internet, along with an interview with Coach Robinson referring to Coach Sanders stating, “He ain’t SWAC. I’m SWAC, he ain’t SWAC….”
Coach Sanders, not to be outdone, responded with a video suited up in a sweatshirt that read, “I AM SWAC.”
The exchange got me to thinking, “WHO IS SWAC?”
SWAC stands for the Southwestern Athletic Conference. It is an athletic conference made up of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the southern part of the country.
The SWAC began in 1920 when athletic officials from six Texas HBCUs met up in Houston, TX, to discuss common goals and interests. From that meeting, they agreed to form a new league which we now know as the SWAC.
In the 1920s, during the start of the SWAC, African Americans were still being negatively impacted by Jim Crow laws in the South, even while gaining more independence. For many, to attend an HBCU was the beginning of a path to educating a community to which all Americans would benefit. The contributions that African Americans coming from these HBCUs have made to this country is incredible.
The world needed to know a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It needed to experience the words of a Langston Hughes.
It needed the expertise of a David Satcher, who was the 16th Surgeon General of the United States.
America needed the beautiful mind of a Katherine Johnson, whose work was critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflight.
The world needed to hear the voice of the songstress Yolanda Adams, the intellect of a W.E.B Du Bois and experience the activism of an Ida B. Wells.
All are products of HBCUs and have made incredible contributions to this country. Contributions that you and I serve as beneficiaries of. Contributions that Coach Robinson and Coach Sanders are beneficiaries of. It is the shoulders of African Americans that lived in the most horrendous of moments in history and decided, nonetheless, to persevere, to endure, and to heed the challenging words of Harriet Tubman: “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop.”
They did not stop, and it is because they did not stop that people like Coach Robinson are even able to sit in a room of reporters, with a microphone in front of him and speak ill of a brother that, too, did not stop and has not stopped serving.
Who is SWAC?
SWAC is us. All of us.
We are the beneficiaries of a struggle, lived in a time that I am not sure any of us will ever fully understand; a time that now, in hindsight, should have taught us to compete at high levels WITHOUT having the audacity to check our brother’s SWAC card.
The ground we walk on is a little softer because of the sweat and tears of those before us. The football programs at HBCUs offer opportunities because of six athletic officials who did not stop and stood on shoulders before them.
So, when I think about “Who is SWAC?” Deion “Prime Time” Sanders comes to mind. He is SWAC.
Who is SWAC?
You are SWAC. I am SWAC.
Somebody please let Coach Robinson know.
Sharwin Wiltz-Boney is an entrepreneur, business consultant/coach, speaker and author who currently serves as President and CEO of a financial infrastructure management company that has operated in the Houston area for more than a decade. Utilizing the experience she has gained through business ventures and her very own life journey, Sharwin invites you into her Musings. Have a comment? Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.