February 20, 2019
I called up Arshay Cooper recently, intending to feature him in a piece honoring Black History Month. In the days since, it has been fits and starts here at my screen, as I struggle with what this month really means to me as a rower, and to me as an American, to me as a person grown up female. Speaking with Arshay has sent me down some rabbit holes, which is a good thing.
Do I want to write about Arshay: his accomplishments; his book Sugawater; the exciting work he is doing at RowNewyork? Or is it more important to convey what I learned about the essence of service, the head-down doggedness of the people who are at the point of the sword? We all have our battles, from simple to life-threatening… stepping into a boat brings many of us respite from those battles, a chance to breathe.
"...and here is where rowing becomes part of the solution"
What Arshay and leaders like him recognize is that boats also offer refuge and opportunity. He points out that the most dangerous hours for inner city kids fall between the final school bell and when their parents get home from work. Provide access to rowing—with the contagious positives that passionate coaches, teammates, physical expression bring. At RowNewYork these programs include entrepreneurship, leadership, communication) and here is where rowing becomes part of the solution. At RNY for example, of the 260 kids in the program last year, they posted a 100% HS graduation rate, with 96% going on to college.
So here is a rabbit hole for you—I’ve known for months that Arshay and filmmaker Mary Mazzio (Olympian and US National team) have been cooking up a project together. I took a minute to google Mary to see what she’s been up to, now I need to catch up and see every one of her films. Her latest films, the documentary I am Jane Doe, and animated I am Little Red put Mary at the tip of the sword in the fight against sex trafficking. Please check 50eggs.com for other important works. And stay tuned for her current project—rowing is back on the menu, but with a twist.
And speaking directly (back on topic, Joline!) to Black History Month— please join me in watching the USRowing site and newsletters for their interviews. Patrick McNerney speaks directly to the challenge and introduces Eric Carson. We are so proud that one of our own JL Ambassadors is highlighted in this article on Maurice Scott. And their piece featuring Brannon Johnson titled Building a Boathouse Without Walls.
So yes—there is more to come from my conversation with Arshay Cooper, if not quotes from my scribbled notes, then tangents that he sends me on during this month of reflection. I will however, end (as he ended our call) with a quote from the musical Hamilton “…History has its eyes on me.”
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