REACH YOUR PEAK

Written by Dr Brandon J. Currie
6/14/20

Frustration, Anger, Confusion, Sadness, and lots of questions continue to circulate through my mind as I think about the recent events unfolding across our nation.  These events are nothing new to me personally.  I am a Black man that has experienced oppression and racism on many fronts, and at times without much support from people outside of my family and close friends.  The killings and treatment of people in the Black community are tragic, dehumanizing, and violate the human rights and equality supposedly imbedded in the fabric of American society.  The truth is we are still having the same conversations and issues surrounding systemic racism and racial inequality with very few solutions or guidance in place to create true change in this revolving struggle of race and equality.

The recent death of George Floyd and so many others has shined a light on the wrongful treatment of human beings because of the color of their skin.  These horrific events have shown the need for some to implement power over specific groups of people to ensure it is known who maintains control in this nation.  This power struggle extends beyond police brutality and is layered in all of the social norms connected to our society.  This negative imagery is mirrored in the world of athletics and the treatment of athletes of color.  There are multiple areas I can address and discuss to provide specific examples of where you will see the large disparities in the treatment of people of color in the world of sports.  For example, Black head coaches or Blacks in leadership positions at the collegiate and professional levels, specifically for sports like basketball and football, are disproportionate in comparison to the amount of players participating in those sports. 

 
 

Instead, I would prefer shining some light on my personal life and how everyone needs to come together and start asking questions of “why” in order to peel back decades of negative layers of racism covering up the root of this systemic issue.  In my world, I’ve been a high level athlete, coach, and business owner in a world that has not been the friendliest or most welcoming to people that look like me.  The sport of tennis has played a major role in shaping me into the person I am today.  It is a sport that teaches discipline, commitment, and how to deal with adversity.  The game is all about personal growth and challenging yourself physically, but more importantly mentally to overcome obstacles and challenges.  I like to say that you are on an island when you decide to compete on a tennis court.  There are no timeouts, no substitutions, and no excuses.  The sun, the wind, and other natural elements are the same for you as they are for your opponent and the person that is mentally strong enough to endure and strategize around those challenges will ultimately gain the advantage. 


I made an effort to instill this same message into the players I coached to get them to focus on things they can control, while building a sense of resiliency they can depend on when faced with extreme challenges and obstacles on court and in life.  It’s a me vs. you mindset on the tennis court, and the best player on that day will usually raise their arms in victory.  The idea of depending on myself in order to raise my competitive level and compete against some of the best players in the world shaped me into the person I am today.  I learned to work for everything I wanted to accomplish, while also continuing to set new goals and making positive impacts on those around me during my journey.  Unfortunately, at times this journey encompassed marginalization and various levels of social inequities that at times made me question why I was competing in this sport or working so hard to accomplish my goals.  The “why” questions I experienced continued to follow me and as I continued to develop into the person I am today, I quickly realized that the same experiences I faced in the world of tennis paralleled the daily struggles of people of color.

 
 

It is my life’s passion to make a positive impact on the lives of underserved youth, while providing a platform for them to feel supported and share their narratives.  Unfortunately, several decades of working to have greater positive impacts on the lives of children academically, emotionally, and socially continue to escape our grasps.  It is believed that more time and energy needs to be focused on boosting relationships and character, while also getting people, specifically children, energized and engaged with different programs and outreach activities that lead to healthy and stable lives.

The national average for child abuse and neglect victims in 2013 was 679,000 or 9 victims per 1,000 children.  In 2015, 1 in 5 high school students reported being in a physical fight or bullied, while 1 in 6 carried a weapon.  Juveniles made up 10% of violent crimes and arrests across the nation.  The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) study and other trauma centered research, offer a platform to expose the negative impact of childhood trauma and oppression, while revealing the health, social, emotional, and economic risks that result from the toxic stress involved with social inequities plaguing our communities. 

Nevertheless, over the past year I have created a new 501c3, named STRYV365, which contains a new youth activity program I authored called “peak team”.  The peak team program is trauma informed and helps kids of all ages recover from the effects of youth trauma and social oppression.  Our coaches and staff members focus on helping kids build resilience against the effects of racism and trauma through a nurturing environment while building positive relationships.  Additionally, racial inequities are layered with various levels of social dynamics that are unique to each individual and community.  We are empathetic in our approach to meeting the needs of youth and communities in need because recovery is a slow process and requires a strong commitment from everyone involved.  The curriculum I wrote is not only informative, but it displays a disciplined, flexible, and de-traumatizing layout meant to enhance the childhood experience while also equipping participants with the necessary tools to deal with the daily toxic stress in their lives.  It is my goal to increase each participant’s capacity to cope with traumatic experiences while promoting recovery and resilience through program activities that will create change within the current racially divided landscape of our society, while offering hope to those who need it most.  This is my journey, but I hope it inspires others to continue to ask questions, listen actively, and make a commitment to being a part of the movement focused on dismantling systemic racism.

 
 
 
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