Interview with Dr. Alpha Alexander: Part II


Dublin Core


Interview with Dr. Alpha Alexander: Part II


Interviews; College sports for women; Sports for women; African American women; African American women athletes


This is Part II of the 1st Interview with Dr. Alpha Alexander for my Senior Independent Study Thesis.
***=Interview Questions

Transcript Below:

***DO: So, what did you know about, did you know anything about Title IX during your years here?

AA: I knew absolutely nothing. And the amazing thing is, uh the book that Professor McDowell, that book, that Ellen from Drexel, Ellen Staurowsky, she, I was on a, um Voice of America radio interview this summer (DO: Okay)

AA: There was two women from Botswana, Africa, me, her, and Dr. Oglesby talking about diversity of sport and things of that sort. And she says Alpha, she wrote me later, she said “I remember when I first met you, I came to Oberlin College to hear you talk about Title IX” and I was like “Oh my God, you heard ME talk about Title IX”! What happened was, Dr. Maria Sexton, here at Wooster, and she was on the Olympic Committee at that time. (DO: Oh really?)

AA: okay, and I think that’s why Wooster was so advanced with 13 sports for women and they were very you know progressive in that era. Uh, she decided that we needed to know about this thing, this law coming into action, called Title IX. And they were having some kind of session up at Oberlin and she took us up there. I knew nothing about it, but I went (DO: Right) you know.

AA: So, that was my beginning of learning about Title IX. Now, not having any idea the impact over my lifetime that it has had in the development of women in sport in the United States. It’s been a major, major impact (DO: Absolutely)

AA: But, that’s how I first learned about Title IX. (DO: Wow)
AA: Yeah, so it was for Wooster and Maria Sexton and having the opportunity to go to Oberlin College. But then, years later they said they heard me talk about it (DO: (Laughs))
AA: I don’t even remember it. (Laughs)

***DO: (Laughs too) Can you recall a time in Wooster where you were consciously aware of being Black?

AA: The day I walked on campus! (DO: (Laughs simultaneously))
AA: You know, here’s my mother and father, you know, take you to the bookstore and my mother made sure she was obsessed about that I had all the books I needed for my classes (DO: Right), buying all those books, you know for the classes and stuff like that

AA: They even had an orientation, uh previous to that and my dad brought me up. But some of the members of my church were here on campus and you got the chance to spend day or two, you know, and I think, you know, at that time, if you think about it in the early 70s, they were really trying to recruit, okay African Americans to this campus, the largest of this sector was from Cleveland, Ohio. Dayton, Ohio they did get some but Cleveland was the masses that were down and they were able to recruit to the campus. I think in my class, there were, ended up being 20 African American freshman and when we graduated it was 8 or 10 of us. So, which in terms of retention, (DO: Umm Hmm) you know you’re talking about 50% there. But, at least we did make it. (DO: Absolutely)

AA: And some of us did proceed to go on to graduate school and become doctors or become lawyers or you know things of that sort. It was a high percentage of graduates from The College of Wooster end up going, you know, on to graduate school. (DO: graduate school)

***DO: Well, can you recall a time when you were aware of being a woman on campus?

AA: Definitely yes. Um…the first day I stepped on campus, okay. And, not only that, I think with me participating in women’s sports, okay, and then two in terms of the Black culture, you know we had our fashion show on campus, so you know I was in the fashion show, (DO: Okay) you know and things, you know, the Black culture. Those are things that we did on campus activities that we did with the Harambee House (DO: Okay, Harambee yes)

AA: and things of that sort. So, um, you know, there still was, you know, you had a boyfriend, you know then you broke up, then the girl that was going with him, lived down the hall way (DO: Right. (Laughs)). You want to beat him up and beat her up, you know. So, you know, those things, you know, I really became active in sport and really busy and I was on a mission about, trying to do good in my grades. I was always skeptical because I never, I’m the type of person that never tested well. (DO: Umm, same) Okay, when I’m talking about the SATs and the ACTs (DO: right, same). So I was nervous. And here my dad, this is a school he wanted me to go to and, you know, they were hard working parents trying to help support me, I wanted to make sure academically (DO: Right) you know I held up my end of the bargain (DO: Umm Hmm).

AA: I will never forget Tuti and I were in a class, a writing class together, and I swear to this day the teacher got me and her mixed up. Okay, because I had tested out of taking this sort of remedial type of writing class. And at the end of this class, she passed and I did not. But I swear the teacher messed us up because we were two Black women (DO: Hmm). And so I got pissed, and I went over to administration and I fought it and I won it. And Mr. Shipe who was, you know, how they have the freshman advisory groups.

DO: Yes. First Year Seminar.

AA: Okay, well first year, I ended up in his group but the second year I was his assistant (DO: Okay) and I talked to him about it and he really stood up for me too. Because academically, I’ll never tell Tuti this in public, okay, but the um, I still today, swear this professor got us mixed up. You know, so here I was forced to take this stupid (DO: (Laughs) Remedial course!) I got back, I was like “this is crazy” and then I ended up pursuing and did end up getting knocked out of the class and didn’t have to take it. It was stupid (DO: Laughs simultaneously).

***DO: What has been your most positive experiences you have encountered as an athlete?

AA: Oh, there’s lots of positive experiences. As a athlete, active athlete or past athlete? (DO: Both)
AA: Okay, well active athlete, you know, just the fact of being able to participate in sport you always dreamed of, you thought you might be good at it but you knew nothing, I didn’t even know anything about the game. Okay, so to be able to do that and excel in volleyball as well as basketball um, was really, really special to me. But most of importantly, after my career was over with, I participated recreationally in various cities that I lived in.
But being an athlete really helped me pursue my profession. Okay, I had a chance, actually I give credit, a lot of delegations I’ve led around the world were to study women in sport and also to study you know athletics or the Olympic structure or the whole gender issue. And ultimately, working for the Young Women’s Christian Association national office. I had the chance to go to Beijing, you know the famous, you heard on the debate. Hillary went to the conference in Beijing, I was actually there (DO: Yes)

AA: Okay, so you know, and before that conference started, I led a delegation of women in sport before the Conference began. It was just focused on women in sport. So, to be able to when you say athlete, you sort of live out and have the opportunity, because I, you know, tried to a little officiating, but I am a Gemini so I like to try little different things and it has given me an opportunity really literally to travel around the world. And even until today, yesterday I was with Senator Lamar Alexander, I know him why? Because I was selected into the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award Winner. He was selected years before me and he’s one and it’s sort of like a kinship there. And he remembers me because I was like years ago, worked in his office in Washington, D.C. and you know, he’s a classical pianist, he’s brilliant, you know everybody says he’s a Republican, so what? He’s my friend, you know (DO: right).

AA: And I got the chance to hold the cane that Mandela gave him. He collects canes from all over the world. But when I contacted his aide, he saw me but yet the young man you saw in the picture, that’s my mentee. So I gave him an opportunity to meet someone. [Picture on webpage]

DO: Look at that!

AA: So, sports has played a very important role in my life.
DO: I see it’s a lot of networking. (AA: Yes, yes)

***DO: What has been your most positive experience you have encountered as an African American?

AA: Most positive experience as an African American?! (Both laugh simultaneously) That’s interesting. Well, the most gratifying (DO: Okay) experiences is the fact that Obama won. Okay and that I lived to see that accomplished. The, I say another one, I had an opportunity to work with Arthur Ashe (DO: Okay) and get to know him. He called me double A, I called him double A, you know, but helping him help design and helped Arthur Ashe Foundation, which now, you know, has grown tremendously. But getting to know him and getting the opportunity to take him up in Harlem to mentor a young man, and people looking at him in the elevator, there like is this Arthur Ashe or is it not.

AA: It was funny, one day on the subway, we were riding uptown together and this man said “Excuse me, are you Arthur Ashe”? And he says “Oh, no” he said “You sure do look like Arthur Ashe” he said “I’m not Arthur Ashe.” So we get to 42nd street, you know, the hot spot, we gets ready to get off the train and right before the doors closed he told the man “I’m Arthur Ashe”

DO: (Laughs simultaneously)

AA: Arthur was a joker. You know, and unfortunately after he, announced he was HIV/AIDS positive, I used to tease him, he used to eat weird stuff like kiwi and Ensure, you know, the doctor would give it to people that are sickly and needed certain vitamins and stuff. They drank it, like one a day. It really helps boost, okay, like everything in your body. He would get off stuff like Kiwi. What brand? What kind of stuff you drinking today?

DO: (Laughs simultaneously)

AA: You know, he was a jokester, you know, but for him, he was a role model because he was an intellect, okay, he was funny, he was an athlete, very famous athlete, you know, so I thought there was really, when he died, a void because you know people can say there is Harry Edwards and certain people out there but he really was the intellectual mind, I thought, in sports, in academics, and the relationship of student-athlete concept, okay

DO: So there are some positive experiences! (AA: Yes)
DO: You had to ask that question again though. (Laughs simultaneously)

***DO: What has been your most positive experience as a woman?

AA: Positive experiences, uhh…attending the conference in Beijing, the women’s conference, and leading a delegation and being a very proud, one of my colleagues at the YWCA was Chinese, and spoke fluent Mandarin and I took her along she knew nothing about sport but I took her along the trip and when it was time for the Chinese delegation and the U.S delegation to talk. They had me go up first and I had Audrey Lam go up there to speak mandarin and they were shocked to see their faces like that. (DO: (Laughs)) Having the chance to as a woman, being able to see different women in different cultures in sport has been simply amazing to me. And these figures serving on the United States Olympic Committee.

AA: For some reason, George Steinbrenner loved me, the owner of the Yankees. So you know, I don’t know why but he said that I was the kind of person, one day there some legislation on the floor and the community based organization never could get legislation up on the floor for discussion and pass. And I had got this legislation through and he came over and he said “you go and you give them hell”! (DO: Laughs)

AA: And I looked at him because I don’t use profanity. And I was like “what are you doing?” But sure enough, I went out of there and I had the lawyer. She’s a lawyer and professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and we won. So later on he says, “Alpha, why is everybody in New York asking me for tickets and sitting in my box and I have never heard from you?” I said “I never thought”, I said “George, I thought you were too busy.” I didn’t really think about asking him. I wasn’t thinking about that, you know, but consequently, he said that baseball was on strike. But when they get off of strike, call Bono, my limousine driver and have him pick you up and bring you to my box. Well years later, I did end up going to his box but he for some reason used to light up when he would see me. I don’t know what that was about, you know (DO: Laughs). That was really, really sort of crazy, but he even during in Atlanta during the bombing he was concerned about me, where was Alpha, you know I was in the hotel tying up the phone lines calling the kids parents to let them know that they were okay. (DO: Umm hmm) you know that kind of thing.

AA: As a woman working for the YWCA of the USA, a woman’s organization and being able to help develop women’s basketball and volleyball, in this country has given me a lot of opportunity in that way. Lots of things, its lots of things. (DO: You could go on and on) Yeah, we could go on and on and on.

***DO: So, what has been your most negative experience as an athlete a former or currently?

AA: Negative experience I would have to say, for me, active athlete was participating in that Central State game (DO: Hmm). It still today comes…I can easily talk about it. I just didn’t understand it, you know, and to be attacked and physically beat up and then I think for me too, I was wanting to have my parents see me play a good game and it was just embarrassing. (DO: Umm Hmm) that was a negative. For me, in terms of internationally, to see the, and this is culture diversity is what I’m speaking about, leaving the youth delegation to not get off and have the French delegate spit on the U.S delegate just because they’re from the United States. So, I’ve seen the ugly and I’ve seen the good.

DO: I think that is one of the most degrading things you can do to somebody.

AA: Yes, very degrading. But, very interesting, I’ll tell a story. My first delegation I led to the Olympic Youth Camp was in Barcelona (DO: Okay). Flew, got there, the kids stayed separate from where we stayed in the Olympic headquarters. We got a call in the middle of the night, three of my girls were molested by a Spanish security guard. So all before the opening ceremony, what was I doing? (DO: Attending to that) Attending to that. And not only did he molest the US girls, African, Jamaican girl, and also Japanese, they had them all in a room.

DO: The security guard!
AA: Security guard. He was working there, went home got drunk, and came back and climbed through the window. So, you know, international incidents, you to be prepared for anything (DO: right) when you’re on international grounds and floor.
DO: Well those may be negative experiences as an African American as well.

AA: Yes, and diversity (DO: Right) I’ve heard like, Renee Powell, the golfer and she right over here by Canton by the way, if you wanted to talk to her. She would be more than happy to be interviewed by you. Renee Powell, saddest thing, you know, her father is the only person in the United States, Black, that built a golf course. And it’s right over here in Canton. (DO: Oh, really?)

AA: Okay, her father has passed away but her and her brother still run it and Renee is very famous on the professional league but to hear her tell me stories about how her and Althea Gibson used to have to change in the parking lot, their clothes, because they weren’t allowed in the club house…that’s sad. (DO: Umm Hmm) That’s very degrading (DO: Yes, that’s not right).

AA: So as a Black woman, and Althea Gibson as a Black woman, I mean she was a prolific tennis player (DO: Absolutely). A lot of people don’t know she was prolific in terms of being a golfer herself. And could not even change in the country club, had to change in the parking lot. And Renee said, you know, Renee was much younger than Althea and she just, she actually stood there and witnessed it. But she’s a story within herself. You know, and she’s not that far.

DO: Right, I’d love to talk to her.







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