Interview with Dr. Alpha Alexander: Part III


Dublin Core


Interview with Dr. Alpha Alexander: Part III


Sports for women--Management; College sports--Management; Mentoring; Diversity in the workplace; African American women; African American women athletes;


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

Transcript Below:

***DO: How has sport participation shaped your life after college?

AA: Well, the opportunity to participate in sport here at Wooster and the people that I got the chance to know as my coaches, really propelled me for an opportunity for graduate school and graduate assistantship to Ginny Hunt and then, in terms of background, I thought, here we go again. I was going to Temple University, I went to visit north Philadelphia, I just knew I was going to a Black institution (DO: Umm Hmm). I was accepted to NYU, Temple, and I chose Temple. First day of class, it’s only three of us in the entire graduate program. And we called him Bozo the Clown (DO: Laughs) because his hair used to be like Bozo’s. And then Dr. Cassandra Jones who she eventually got her doctorate degree (DO: Okay) and little ole’ me. And the three of us and I was the first to graduate out of the graduate program.

AA: But here we are in north Philadelphia and this is, you don’t know anything about this, Rizzo days [referring to former mayor of Philadelphia], I had never seen a policemen on a horse (DO: Oh) and that was scary to me. And it was on Broad Street on a horse, you know (DO: Right, walking around! (Laughs)), Rizzo didn’t play back in those days. You know but here we and you go in a building and then you’re the only African American in some classes and it was very, very, uh, very, very strange. But in terms of this goes back when you said, what builds on character, perseverance, um, research methods, shoot that was a piece of cake for me, because why, I had been through Wooster (DO: Oh, right!) I was well prepared. (DO: See, yeah) That was like, you know, walking into… that was a good class to take. I had already been there done that let’s just look at, bring out IS, here we go, you know (DO: Laughs)

AA: But, the connections of my coach and then Dr. Oglesby and Dr. Oglesby, the opportunities that I had with her, she was internationally known, a sport psychologist and so, she took interest in me. And I used to be afraid, scared to death, didn’t know nothing about speaking in front of people, she’d take me all over the country with her, have me present, my knees. I never will forget, one time we were in San Francisco, my knees were shaking so bad. But I got up and I gave a speech. You know, I can get up and talk and have a crowd, you know, and go one, you know, those kinds of things. (DO: right) But for her, to be a mentor to me and give me accessibility and the opportunity as a Black woman, okay and she was white, really gave me accessibility. Okay, and experience, in the world of woman in sport. (DO: Umm Hmm).

AA: But then what happened, also with Temple, it wasn’t a Black institution but Nikki Franke and Tina Sloan Green was there and …(DO: I read about that).

AA: and Linda Green, who was a lawyer. And that’s sort of how we got together. And said look there’s a need for this, we need to formulate the Black Women in Sports Foundation, you know. So my participation in athletics really propelled me in life. You know in contacts and networks, and things of that sort. (DO: Umm Hmm)

***DO: What support or advice would you give to advisors, coaches, and other staff members in administration regarding your daily lived experiences as a Black female athlete?

AA: Well it’s very interesting because, and I think I might’ve mentioned this to you earlier. A lot of people give a lot of credit to Title IX but really was is the impact on diversity (DO: Hmm) based on gender and Title IX. And uh, I can’t find it but in the New York Times, Bill Rhoden, sports writer, he’s just retired, wrote about it. He had us all come up to New York and we spoke of that. Now, Tina and myself very vocally and were quoted in the New York Times about this. Everybody is celebrating oh, Title IX, so were Black women short, I’m going to say it, I say diversity, okay, but particularly, on this topic, we’re talking about Black women, were they short changed? You know, because at one point there was a lot of movement Title IX is hurting track and field (DO: Oh)

AA: Okay, and where were the majority of African Americans participating in?
DO: Track and field (said simultaneously)

AA: And based on gender, track and field (DO: Umm Hmm) Not at that time, now much more so these days, African American women are participating in basketball, you know, there’s real gains we’ve broke in swimming, gymnastics (DO: said simultaneously), fencing, and I give direct credit, a lot of people don’t know this, Wendy Hilliard (DO: Hmm), I said what do you want to do in life. And she said “oh, well I really…” I said well then you need to get serious and form your own foundation….and from there, was history.

AA: Look at rhythmic gymnastics, look at the, she’s even started a program in Detroit, even tonight is her big gala in New York City they’re having. Peter Westbrook. Peter, what are you doing? Never will forget sitting over breakfast, I can tell you in the village exactly where we sat and talked “Ahh, Alpha, I don’t want to be bothered with all of that” I said “whether you want to be bothered with it or not, you’ve got to do this (DO: Hmm) so you can do it”…20 years later, 3 bronze medals, and before that, even you know, the brothers and sisters, the Smart sisters [referring to Brother and sister Keeth and Erinn Smart] won silver medals [in fencing]. So, you see more and more African Americans excelling but really what is the impact of Title IX? Did or did not Black women really benefit from by it based on gender? Now, to go even deeper, okay, I took my little [gent] and I purposefully accepted a position at a predominately Black institution. Really, let’s do a study on HBCUs. First of all, what is Title IX to them? What is the impact? And how does women in sport has been impacted on those campuses? Morehouse is an all-male college (DO: Right), Spelman what?

DO: all-female

AA: Doesn’t offer sports! They dropped all their sport programs. (DO: Sure, did. Umm Hmm) Okay, so what message and what impact did Title IX do? You know.

DO: What did you find?

AA: Well look at Spelman (DO: Well right, yeah) you know, and don’t tell me oh yeah because, it’s good, you can participate in physical activity (DO: Yeah, that is the argument)

AA: There is something special, and I think you would agree with this, about women that participate in sport. We learn different things. We learn about win, lost, and how to be a teammate, and I can go on and on… (DO: Right!) the confidence! The self-esteem, those kinds of things. So Title IX, some say “oh, it really helped and increased women in sport, and da da da da da” but in the meantime in terms of African Americans and in terms of even diversity, it didn’t really make a…they should have tapped on “Title IX, Gender, and Diversity”

DO: More recently, there was something about swimming and there is no longer at certain institutions. There was a huge population of African American women, uh, doing swimming.

AA: Yes, and was it North Carolina, I believe right?
DO: I think so.

AA: Right, exactly. (DO: And they no longer have their program, so…)
AA: Right, right, and in fact, Dee Todd taught sent some information out, she’s track and field (DO: Okay) in North Carolina, she used to be the commissioner of CIAA [Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association], which is a Black conference. But probably… if you say in terms of Black institutions, it’s sort of like a BIG TEN, (DO: Okay), okay, but for Black institutions. CIAA is one of the biggest conferences there but she’s retired now but she talked about that. (DO: Hmm) Yea, but it’s sad! (DO: Yes)

AA: Okay, because you say that women had really made leeway…well that’s true…but on the diversity issue (DO: Not as much). And particularly African American women, you had consistently, you know, Chanel Lattimer (DO: Yes) if you look at her studies, basketball and track and field, were some of the traditional sports, you know, and then swimming there was up and coming male African American and Alex was killed in a car accident in Florida, in fact his head was amputated…in the accident. (DO: Wow) He was supposed to be the first swimmer, African American male to win a gold medal but he didn’t survive. You know, so it’s important, I think that Michelle Obama, uh, get active, get moving [referring to the Let’s Move! Campaign], okay, is fantastic. Because I’ve always thought someone needed to lead that effort. (DO: Umm Hmm)

AA: But behind that, is my friend Donna Richardson, or Donna Richardson-Joyner, you know, she used to be married to Tom Joyner (DO: Okay!) But she’s been on for the past two presidents, Bush AND Obama programs for physical fitness and Donna, she has done a lot of stuff and movement and physical activity getting particularly, Black churches involved out there moving and active. I think she made a major impact on Michelle on that movement and I was glad to see it, you know. I live down south... “Who is this Michelle Obama think they are effecting in the school system? My kids don’t like that food” [mimics]. You know the criteria, (DO: Umm Hmm) the kind of crazy stuff (DO: Right) you know what I’m saying. When you think about it, the way you eat is healthy, you know, you got to pay attention, and start instilling that in the young folks.

AA: But, um…Title IX…. it’s all that but it’s not. And I still think it has a long way to go. You know I can think, sit back, I used to be chair of the members service committee [one of the most powerful committees in the USOC Board structure] on the Olympic Committee and they didn’t want to give any money for women’s wrestling (DO: Hmm, why not?)

AA: They didn’t think it would go. They didn’t think it would develop into a sport but there’s boxing

DO: Well, look at MMA today, Rhonda Rousey and…

AA: Look at what I’m trying to tell you (DO: Laughs)
AA: It’s all based on the goal with the potentiality of each governing body and what they could do. And I fought hard, nobody will ever give me credit for it but I fought hard to get the money to help get Olympic boxing and wrestling started.

DO: Boxing was huge this year as well, Claressa Shields

AA: Yep. In fact, she was in New York last night (DO: Oh), she was with Wendy [Hilliard] (DO: Okay! Wow!) Wendy’s got a picture of her, Billie Jean King, and I forget who else in the picture but yep. Yeah.

***DO: So, what would you like, what would you say we need to do to, because we have Title IX but then what more should we be doing?

AA: Well, programs like Wendy (DO: Hmm) and Peter. To me it is a key, sort of, like from the pipeline. And the accessibility of sports (DO: Sports (said simultaneously). Economically, it’s beyond reach for some people. (DO: Right) My little baby cousin, she’s taller than me now, she just went into the, what the fourth grade? Fifth grade? She made the basketball team (DO: Umm Hmm) But she’s fortunate. She’s got parents that can afford to, you know, um I call her snake woman, she the lady is a ball player, Andrea [Carter—former UT Lady Vols women’s basketball player], she has a snake that she carries around with her. I call her snake woman. Her mom, my cousin, is head of the Boys and Girls Club in Knoxville, she has accessibility to someone who can work with her. (DO: Hmm) But, the cost, the accessibility, the equipment, whose going on the travel team? Who has a facility to do rhythmic gymnastics and gymnastics? (DO: Right)

AA: So, one thing it has to be looked on widening the base of accessibility. (DO: Umm Hmm) Okay, in terms of activity. This is just my opinion, okay but I think there is one thing we can do. And number two, I don’t care what you say, some people say “ahh, the HBCUs are dying” and all that…they’re not dying. Okay, they need to get right. And they need to really beef up their women’s sports program. Someone really needs to go in and do a Title IX investigation, in my opinion. And examine what is taking place and what is equitable and you know, things of that sort. And then another thing is that the mentoring programs, administrative-wise in terms of giving back training, so people can step in and you know be able to carry forward
(DO: Carry on) you know, we’re not going to be around forever. But passing that torch back and bringing more people on and some people were afraid of that…but why? To me the more, the merrier. You know, the more contributions that can be made in all kinds of ways. So, really analyzing and seeing the way. Same things you hear today. What is in the leadership of the NCAA? What are the leadership of coaching? The Black Coaches Association just debunked. I don’t know if you knew that. (DO: No, I didn’t!)

AA: I’ve got this stuff on my phone. But we can go on the internet and I can show you, but the press release was just sent out, it’s debunked. You know, what is that saying? Okay, in terms of development of leadership, you know. If you look at the pros, Richard Lapchick? Do you know Richard? (DO: No, I don’t)

AA: His father was the first NBA, and at that time there was an NBA, but he was the coach of the New York Knicks who allowed Blacks on the team. (DO: Hmm) So Richard Lapchick has followed in his father’s footsteps and really advocated. Okay, so if you see Jesse Jackson it used to be back in the day “come one up, you know, here we are in this hotel room, here we’re gonna talk about the sporting goods industry…da da da da and by the way, we’re in the high end. So dig in your pockets deep because we have to pay for this room” But the white person that was standing on the stage of all of Jesse Jackson and his folks (DO: Hmm) was Richard Lapchick.

AA: And Richard Lapchick is a professor in Florida. He was good friends also with Arthur Ashe (DO: Okay). But he does the NCAA report card and talks about Black athletes and things of…You really need to take a look at some of his work and research. (DO: Okay). Okay, so all those things really point, what are the grade point averages? You know, he’s calls it the report card but are these things important? Yes, it is important.

AA: Emmett Gill, he’s done some work, you know. Emmett, he is formulating a group to address it and like he said “how could the Black Coaches Association go debunked”? (DO: Right) When you’ve got many NFL coaches making millions, they could’ve given the organization some money (DO: Absolutely!) You know to continue, so, there’s a lot still going out there. There’s people who would say “oh, okay Obama became president… a lot of things were going to be accomplished, a lot of things were going to be done” Now they’re sort of like “oh, this is the year of the women because you know Hillary is coming in. You know, some of the same think in terms of, at least, this is my opinion (DO: Umm Hmm) in power structure, is that I never seen …it’s some of the toughest critics in women in sport are white women. And having an accessibility to allow such an ability for Blacks to break in (DO: Hmm).

AA: Athletic prowess, we are becoming much more immerged of the WNBA. Renee Brown just stepped down, which is a tragic lost for the WNBA. She’s been there twenty years but Renee really develop the WNBA and she always was the vice president and never given the leadership role and they have had Black women, you know, taken the lead after Val Ackerman [referring to WNBA former commissioner] and things of that sort. But to me, they have been some of the toughest and non-insightful, [inclusivist]. If they’re a star, they might be inclusive (DO: Umm Hmm). Like, Women Sports Foundation, their whole [operatum] is starship and who Jackie Joyner Kersee, you know, blah blah blah but if you really take a closer look and examine what do they do programmatically? There may be grants and give them out, but what do they really do? Like the Peter Westbrook’s on, what I call roots on the ground (DO: Umm Hmm) you know, kind of people.

DO: That’s interesting you say that because my research so far, is showing that during Title IX, it was mainly about, because I am using Black feminist theory, that will be one of my sources for my theoretical framework (AA: Umm Hmm) and just not even having insight on what are the needs of Black women in sport. It wasn’t really an issue for them. (AA: Umm Hmm). So that’s interesting.

AA: I think it’s interesting you haven’t talked to Tina yet. (DO: I will) Tina is on the, let me say, on this side, the radical side. I think you’ll get a very interesting perspective or take on the whole thing. She’s been there…seen it, done it…she couldn’t go with the USA, I think it was field hockey team to South Africa, and she was on the team, because she was Black.

DO: To South Africa? (AA: Yes.)
AA: This was during when South Africa in apartheid. (DO: Oh, okay) So, she has been through it from then. She’s at Temple, three national championships, you know what I’m saying. Was she really given due credit, is she being given due credit? You know, she is developing a lot in terms of lacrosse and what I am talking about is, her thing was field hockey and lacrosse. But the specialization was in non-traditional sport (DO: Wow) as a Black woman. She’s um…you’ll hear some of her thoughts thread to me. I just hung up from her. She called me before and I was like “I can’t talk Tina (DO: Laughs) I’m getting on a plane.” I said “I’ll call you when I land.” So I call her, she said “where are you”? I said “Wooster.” I said “With Brenda right here” (DO: Laughs). She goes “Uh”? She didn’t even know I was going out of town. (DO: Okay) But anyhow.

***DO: What advice would you give to new and returning Black female athletes who are participating?

AA: New and returning, to me it’s about…perseverance again. It goes back to that. But also, passing the torch and bringing the younger ones forward. I think it’s extremely important. You know, the whole concept, that’s one of the other benefits of coming to a college like Wooster, is we get it about liberal arts, we get it about community service, you know, we might not have quite got it while I was here, but I got it, you know what I’m saying. So, community service, is now the in-thing. We’ve been doing (DO: Right) and graduates from this university. That’s one of the beauties about a liberal arts education. Uh, but also spiritually-wise, it’s about giving back (DO: Hmm) and bringing someone forward (DO: Umm Hmm). I think that’s crucial.

DO: You mention that and there is actually a first year student, who is on the field hockey team under with Coach Brenda Meese. (AA: You did say that!) Yes!

DO: And I have just been reaching out to her every time I can. (AA: Umm Hmm) just to see how she’s doing, you know because I’m here (AA: Yeah) and she, I think she’s the only African American woman on the field hockey team. So, I mean at least I had a couple when I first came here for track. There were a couple of others here already. But she’s the only one so I just want to reach out to her. And my mother is an AKA and her mother is one, so they met (AA: met, okay, alright) and she wanted me to introduce myself to her daughter, so I said oh yes, absolutely and that reminds me of it.

AA: Yeah, yeah, that’s good. (DO: Umm Hmm) Because that’s important, you know, knowing that you’ve got that support base here and you know, you might be able to pass some things on to that she can (DO: Right) be able to accomplish. You think that the Harambee house didn’t start over there, the Harambee house started up in the dorms. You know what I’m saying. (DO: Hmm, right)

AA: Because back in the day, I thought I was Angela Davis (DO: Laughs) I had the big afro, I used to have Angela Davis that was my door poster in my room and even when I was an RA of the...

DO: She came to the College!

AA: Yeah, that’s what I heard! But I wasn’t here. I wish I could’ve seen her. Eric Dyson was here too. (DO: He was! yes!) That was funny that day we talked too. I said “let me send her this picture” (DO: Laughs simultaneously)

DO: And I did not go up and get a picture because I would’ve showed you, I know. But I enjoyed his talk. (AA: Right, right).
DO: And Wes Moore came recently too (AA: I see, yeah I think I read that somewhere) I can show you a photo, I got a photo.

AA: Yeah, because you’ll treasure those years from now. (DO: You say what?) You’ll treasure those photos (DO: Oh, right!) years from now. You definitely will. (DO: Yeah)

***DO: So, How would you describe yourself today? Looking back?

AA: Old. No, I’m teasing. (DO: (Laughs simultaneously) Oh stop!) How do I describe myself today? Um, what I’m trying to do, first of all is to contribute okay literature-wise. Writings never really been my thing, okay, but I just gave you a copy of an article on Arthur Ashe. Doing some things like that. Stirring up the pot with Senator Lamar Alexander and popped in there yesterday, how does she know him? But, you know, continuing to see, hopefully, the Black Women in Sports Foundation continue on and doing some new and different things. (DO: That’s like what it’s like, having that... [Referring to DO’s research being added to the BWSF webpage]) Yeah, that’s always been a dream of mine having the research as a central place, you know, for that. And most important, I love working around young people, because y’all have great ideas. You know, and I really, don’t know how I ended up, I have a couple of mentees who are boys now. (Laughs) (DO: Yeah, that’s in the photo. [Check webpage for photo])

AA: Right, like, Mr. Wright, Nick Wright and I have Brandon Branch, who is in Memphis [TN], okay I’ve got Micah Wise okay whose getting ready to graduate in December, it’s taken him about ten years (DO: Okay) okay, but he’s going to be a physical education teacher, you know. I don’t know but I’ve gotten some men that, you know, I’ve tried to mentor. But for me also, looking at living down south and the racism is still alive and well. And how can I really do some things positively down there and I guess, it’s just deep seated in my father. (DO: Hmm).

AA: Me returning south and you know I was named I haven’t run into it and became very good friends with the former mayor, [Sami Barile] while she was in office and she supported me. And the tasks force and next year will be the ninth year for the Martin Luther King Breakfast. So, things of that sort, that’s where I see myself now. Okay? And being down, of course, in the state of Tennessee with the Vols and enjoying sports. I keep the scorebook for men’s and women’s basketball team at Walter State (DO: Okay). And the women’s team went to the national tournament last year. For a community college, they are very successful, you know things of that sort. So, being involved and two, for me to returning south, this is about family. (DO: Hmm)

AA: I have a cousin who had a stroke and had aneurysm brain surgery, so I am cooking for her (DO: Hmm, right) and developing cooking skills is new for me but I’ll try it. (DO: Laughs simultaneously). And my seventy-six year old cousin, you know, to care for her (DO: Hmm) and I have a ninety year old cousin that is in a living assistance program, but you know making sure she when I go back, she wants to vote. And I’m going to take her to do early voting (DO: Hmm) you know and she’s on a walker now but we’re going to (DO: Get there, said simultaneously) and you know those types of things you know, so. And I still have the same friends you know from Wooster forward. You know Brenda, she’s one of my longest and dearest friends, Mechelle, Artura Otey, you know, and then the other thing is, you’ll find once you graduate and you all get back together, it’s just like you left yesterday.

AA: Patsy Ratcliff [Stone], she lives here (DO: Okay). Patsy and Manny is her husband, he played basketball here. I texted her, she wants to you know check in with me, she wants to see me, you know, it’s just like you just left off, you know. These were good days here. There were bad days and good days at Wooster (DO: Hmm). You know, but it…for me, being a Black woman I also had other things I were involved with. But I never lost who I was and my identity. (DO: Hmm).

AA: But my father was very strong like that. (DO: Yeah) And he led a demonstration in Dayton because (Paul Lawrence Dunbar) graves they weren’t up keeping, he led this huge demonstration (laughs) in Dayton, Ohio, okay to get it cleaned up and to today the graves are clean, they tell me. I mean one of my aunts, we called her King Tut, she voted for Shirley Chisholm for president. (DO: For president, (laughs simultaneously))

AA: My mother was the baby of nine but my other two aunts went voting with her, they said Aunt Nena who did you vote…Shirley Chisholm. My other two aunts, were laughing they went back into the bedroom and was laughing at my aunt. (DO: Laughs) But, she was progressive, you know and out there in that day. So, enjoying family, you know (DO: Yea, Absolutely) I don’t have any…kids, okay? But I do have a puppy, her name is Bella Bear.

***DO: So, what would you like to tell me that you have, that I have not asked already? Is there anything that you’d like to share?

AA: Hmm, that’s a good question. And I saw that question that you had sent. Can I answer that later? (Laughs) No, you want it on tape don’t you.

DO: You can answer it later.







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