Celebrating Black History Month By, Maurice Scott
Never in a million years would I have thought to be recognized the way I was let alone have my medals and pictures put in a museum highlighting the history of rowing in Philadelphia alongside many great athletes who took part in its growth. This also was not just any museum but the Independence Seaport Museum where I had my 8th-grade graduation ceremony. This was a special moment and I will tell you why.
5th through 8th grade wasn’t my glory days by far. I was a small kid in comparison to everyone else in every way(So I thought). I didn’t fit in with what other people liked. I didn’t have the flyest clothes. I didn’t have the “cleanest” shoes. I didn’t have the smooth talk. I was not athletic and always the last man picked by default. My grades were alright and made honor roll but who cares about that right? It seemed like any time I opened my mouth negative attention followed me. My father was also a police officer so that added an extra target on my back. People would curse at me, call me names, assault me, etc just because I was there. I guess it was the City of Philadelphia’s “Tough Love”. During this time I had trouble finding my identity. The kid who I wanted to be clearly didn’t attract positive attention from any of my peers so I always thought I was doing something wrong. I started to try to adapt and ask my parents to get some of the “fly” clothes and the “fly” sneakers. I would come in and try to act like my peers with the “fly” gear but still, I continued to get bullied. I tried so hard that I began to lose who I really was. I started to get in trouble because I would try to be a class clown in order to please other people. That didn’t work because teachers then started to not like my attitude. Then they would call my parents and my parents would be upset with me. It seemed like I couldn’t do anything right. I would go home every night asking myself “why doesn’t anyone like me?” I would be afraid to go to school the next day because I didn’t know if someone would embarrass again by their words or if someone would push me around as they have in the past. Tears became my way of releasing the anger and sadness I felt for myself.
I started to question my existence in this world and struggled with loving who I was. Then something happened to me at the beginning of this struggle that would manifest 13 years later…
During my 5th grade year in 2005, I was introduced to the sport of rowing. Bachelors Barge Club introduced a two week learn to row program. I was always a water kid and just felt a connection between me and just being around water. I loved to raft, loved to sail, and loved to swim so being around the water was almost second nature to me. When I saw the rowing program offered I said why not. Of course, people made fun of me for doing that as well but I knew being around the water made me forget about those worries and people. After attending the rowing camp my father took me to see the regattas. I knew Kelly Dr. would be closed but I never knew why until my father took me to find out. When we watched the races he asked me what did I see. I said there weren’t any people that looked like me racing. He then responded to me and said: “That doesn’t mean you can’t”. My father seemed to have seen something in me that I didn’t see.
Fast forward 15 years later in the sport of rowing, I became a Philadelphia City Champion and received full scholarships to some of the best teams in the country. I traveled overseas to Australia and attended one of the most prestigious universities in the world, University of New South Wales. I became the first African American to represent the University in the sport of rowing, competed in the Australian University Games, and came home with numerous gold medals. Once back to the U.S., I was featured on tv stations, magazines, and newspapers. I became sponsored by the premier rowing brand in the world, JL Racing. I competed in U.S. Club Nationals and continued to chase my dreams by becoming a Police Officer. I continue to chase my rowing dream to rise to a national team berth one day. Most recently, I had my pictures, medals, and story memorialized in the same museum where I graduated with my peers who treated me with little to no respect.
I write this because I want those who are in my shoes and can relate to this to know you are not alone. You are destined for something great. You have a purpose in your life. You may not see it now but believe it will manifest in front of your eyes. There is a biblical saying that goes “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows”. Regardless if one is religious or not, know that the tables WILL turn and you are just being prepared for something that you cannot even dream of. It will happen in front of those who look down on you. Just stay strong and stay true to yourself. When it's your time to eat don’t hold back…
By, Maurice Scott
Team JL Captain