Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Magic Pencil
a vehicle to drive youth toward self-esteem
by Karen E. Dabney © 2009
For social studies we havtuh do research an a report on somethin we’re interested in. I’m tryin to decide if I wanna write bout soccer or racin. I decide to pick racin cuz I know so much bout it. An, I still got the info I found while lookin up Willy T. Ribbs. My moms is right. I can use what I’d saved to do my paper. I’d already printed out most a what I’d need. I ask Nia what she’s gonna report on.
She tries to stand the way they drew theyselves back then. I have to laugh cuz she looks so clumsy! Then she says:
“Mayhaps I’ll write about Mr. Barack Obama instead. He might be our next president, you know.”
“I figure a lot a kids’ll be doin that. I’ve decided to write about the manly art of motor sports,” Nia has her mouth open to tell me something else but I beat her to it. “I know there’s women racers but my report is gonna be on African American racers an I ain seen nothin on no black female drivers.” I find my printouts an notes on racin an try to school Juan Lee durin Brainstorming Time in class. We got a week to do our reports an I figure he’ll need help. Juan Lee decides to write bout break dancin cuz he’s so into it. I start tellin him sommuh what I’ll use for my report. I play it like I’m givin a lecture so he’ll laugh.
“First African American driver I learned about was one my father told me of by the name of Willy T. Ribbs.” Juan Lee starts chucklin an says:
“Is that really his name?”
“Yes, young man, it tis. As I was saying, I learned from many sites on the Internet that he raced for almost 25 years and was the most win-nin-gest African American driver in history! He won Driver of the Year twice and was the first black man to compete in NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series. Mr. Ribbs--for a long time--had been the first, and only, African American to test for the Formula One Grand Prix team in Portugal! He retired from racing and took up clay shooting because he had trouble getting enough sponsors. Advertising for their sponsors are the reason drivers and their cars have so many patches, painted words and symbols on them.
Hungry for more information, I put in a search for black racing car drivers. I found one site that mentions a Mr. Wendell Scott who was the first African American stock-car driver. He won the Grand Nationals in 1963!
There is also Mr. Morty Buckles who raced in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002. And, I discovered, on The American Racing Car Association site, a Mr. Herbert Bagwell, Jr., also known as The Hawk. He and his wife own and operate Bagwell Motor Sports. In an interview, Mr. Bagwell stated he could use a lot more sponsors and would like to see more black folk racing and watching in the stands.
And there’s Mr. Leonard Miller, co-owner of The Miller Racing Group. He was the first black owner in the Indianapolis 500! He wrote a book, Silent Thunder, that tells about his experiences in the business of racing.
As far back as the 1920’s there existed a heartland racing sweepstakes called The Gold and the Glory, formed by blacks because they weren’t allowed to compete in the Indy 500. You can compare them to The Negro Leagues of baseball that were also formed due to exclusion.
And, most recently, there’s a Mr. Lewis Hamilton whom I need to research further. Mr. Lee, are you taking all this down?” Juan Lee busts out laughin. He enjoyed my lil presentation an he wasn’t the only one. Nia is smilin an softly clappin her hands.
Juan Lee--still laughin--says:
“Watcher, you crazy! But seriously, man, you gonna havtuh help me out wit my paper. I don’t think I’ll be able to find much bout breakin, krumpin an steppin in books.”
“Not a problem, my brotha.” I smile.
“Brainstorming Time is over, class.” Ms. Winston announces.
I strut my way back to my seat.
Provided with permission...