Celebrating March Madness

This week in North Philly Notes, David Grzybowski, author of Mr. All-Around connects Tom Gola to March Madness.

What an opening weekend for March Madness. As you wait for your bracket to play out for your office bracket pool in the upcoming weeks remember this: March Madness wouldn’t exist without Philadelphia’s own, Tom Gola.

In the 1950’s the NCAA tournament took a backseat to the National Invitational Tournament tournament of today’s game. The roles were reversed, the NIT was bigger and the games attracted more fans to the court when the tournament games were played at Madison Square Garden in New York City. MSG was the mecca of college basketball in the 1950’s.

In 1951, a huge point-shaving scandal hit college basketball, with a total of seven schools and thirty-two players admitted to taking bribes from gamblers to control the outcomes of games. The scandal started with the City College of New York, Long Island University, and NYU and grew to a plethora of other teams throughout the early 1950’s. Teams were getting banned from post-season play and some players even got jail time. The point-shaving scandal was a slap in the face to college basketball fans at the time and the way the league was functioning. The NCAA had an image conflict; it needed a new face and a fresh start.

Mr All-Around_smEnter Tom Gola at La Salle University in 1952.

During his first season at 20th and Olney in 1952, Gola led the La Salle Explorers to the NIT tournament, a then 12 team tournament. In 1952, there was no play in game in Dayton, Ohio, there was no Selection Sunday show on television, and there was not a field of 68 teams vowing for the championship. Those 12 teams in the early 1950’s were at the center the college basketball landscape at Madison Square Garden.

When I interviewed La Salle men’s basketball alum, Ed Altieri for Mr. All-Around: The Life of Tom Gola, he remarked, “The NIT was the big draw. [You were] lucky to get something written in the paper about being in the NCAA’s [tournament].”

The NCAA was in dire need of a star caliber player to watch on the court. A multitude of NCAA teams lost their players to suspensions, jail time, and teams were sanctioned by the NCAA for postseason play. The league was in dire need of a new star player to follow. Gola’s rise to fame in the NCAA was due to his 6’6 frame being an all-around player on the court. He could be your teams point guard, shooting guard and snag 20 rebounds a game for your team. He was the perfect storm of a new superstar with an entirely new audience of college basketball fans watching. He was a breathe of fresh air to the basketball world.

In 1954, Gola led the La Salle Explorers to win the NCAA championship game against Bradley. He continued to rack up season accolades such as the NCAA Tournament Final MVP, Sports Magazine College Basketball Player of the Year and the Associated Press All-State First Team. Whenever Tom Gola was playing the country was watching. Whether it was the NIT, a Big 5 game at the Palestra or a NCAA tournament game, Gola was the star bringing college basketball back to its strong routes.

A year later in 1955 during his senior year, Gola and La Salle were back playing in the NCAA tournament championship game, this time facing Bill Russell, K.C Jones and San Francisco Dons. The Explorers lost thanks to Bill Russell’s MVP tournament play, making him the first African American player to be honored with that award in 1955. Once again Gola was at the epicenter of college basketball’s biggest dance, three out of the four years at La Salle Gola was the star of the final game of the season. The tarnished image of the NCAA was begging to pick back up with large thanks to Gola and his superstar play.

Gola’s dominance in the NCAA was the first of its kind in the college basketball in the 1950’s. Before his time there was never a player that was worth the price of admission to see Gola play on a daily basis. He packed Madison Square Garden on a regular basis. The firmly believe that the NCAA superstardom began with Tom Gola and continued to todays game in 2019 from Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Akeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant to LeBron James.

Tom Gola is the bridge between college basketball almost being destroyed by gamblers and corruption to the field of 68 teams and the March Madness hoopla we are used to today in 2019. While you’re are enjoying the madness, be sure to remember the college basketball legends that paved the way before us.

As the late great, Philadelphia Warriors PA announcer Dave Zinkoff would say, “Gola goal.”

 

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Meet Temple University Press’s new acquiring editor, Sarah Munroe!

This week in North Philly Notes, a Q&A with our new acquiring editor, Sarah Munroe. 

Sarah Munroe joined Temple University Press’s editorial team this week. She will be acquiring titles in Asian American studies, gender and sexuality studies, disability studies, literary studies, as well as regional interest. She comes to the Press after experience at West Virginia University Press and the Pew Charitable Trusts. She has an MFA in creative writing with a focus in poetry.

SarahMunroe

We asked her about her book and reading habits to get to know her better.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (short stories)
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (novel)
Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed (poetry)

What’s the last great book you read?
Toddler-Hunting and Other Stories by Taeko Kono – It’s such a deliciously sinister title! The stories were written in the 1960s and set in mid-twentieth century Japan. The restraint and orderliness of the language, setting, and scenarios contrasts surprisingly with the proclivities and obsessions of the characters, yet I found I wanted to recommend each story to a different friend as being somehow meaningful to their own current life situations.

Also, Milkman by Anna Burns—the way its structured is masterful. She tells you up front where it’s going to go, but the back and forth in time and the swelling of nearly overwhelming mundane detail somehow sustains tension and creates suspense leading up to the ending. The images and emotional landscape really stuck with me.

What book made the greatest impression on you?
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Country Music: Selected Early Poems by Charles Wright

Which writers do you love (or hate) the most?
Love: Maggie Nelson, Anne Carson, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Hass, and every now and then I need to read some Margaret Atwood to feel grounded again.

When and how do you read?
I read on the subway to and from work, usually the New Yorker. During my lunch I like to take a walk to clear my mind for half the time and then read a book while I eat (apologies to my new coworkers if I appear antisocial, it’s my introvert). I read before bed every night, usually a novel. I’ll read in the evenings while my husband plays video games, and in a coffee shop on the weekends while he draws, or in bed on the weekends if I wake up before he does. I wake up early one morning a week to go to my favorite coffee shop and read poetry and some kind of writing book—that keeps me sane.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
Ha, I have eclectic interests and buy retired books from the library for a quarter with the intention to read and then donate to Free Little Library, so I have amassed an odd assortment. But Mind Hunter by John Douglas has been sitting by my bed for a long time, and I probably won’t donate it when I’m done. I started reading true crime as “research” for a PhD I thought I might try to get, but now I just need to fess up to the fact that I am among the stereotype who consume it.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?
Does Anne of Green Gables count? She was so plucky. Or Indiana Jones—the scholar adventurist.

What Temple University Press book has particular meaning to you?
2502_regWho Will Speak for America?edited by Stephanie Feldman and Nathaniel Popkin. I attended a Writers Resist event in Philadelphia in January 2017 that was part of the inspiration for this collection. At the time, I was in my last semester in grad school for an MFA in creative writing in poetry at West Virginia University. The MFA program itself was great, fully funded, and it gave me the opportunity to work at WVU Press for two years, which is how I’m now at TUP, so I’m incredibly grateful. However, the pursuit of poetry sometimes made me want to put my head on a desk for a long time. The Writers Resist event though—local writers reading their works and works of others—and the writing and art that came out in response to it, is a testament to the power of writing and creative expression in how it brings people together and offers a communal and individual forum for mourning, for rage, and for hope.

2453_regWhat Temple University Press book would you recommended to someone?
The Man-Not, by Tommy J. Curry. Actually, I have yet to read it—it’s next on my list—so if you read it, we can discuss it!

What book will you read next?
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World. I got it for Christmas, and it’s since been sitting on the dinosaur bookshelf, time to dust it off.

What three writers would you invite to a dinner party?
I couldn’t. I would be too nervous to meet them and stressed about cooking and what to say and if they like each other and if they mind that one of my dogs just piddled with excitement. I would garden with Louise Glück and possibly discuss murder mysteries, take a walk with Rebecca Solnit, and have whiskey with Margaret Atwood.

Coming Home: Asian American root journey narratives

This week in North Philly Notes, Patricia Chu, author of Where I Have Never Been, writes about developing her interest in narratives of return.

About sixteen years ago, I decided to go to Taiwan to give a paper on stories about Chinese Americans who visited China for the first time. At the time, I was in the same position as the heroine of an Amy Tan novel, for my mother had died just about a year earlier, and I had never seen mainland China or the relatives who lived there. A friend told me I needed to develop an international audience, and I was invited to attend a conference on history and memory in Taiwan. I hadn’t traveled much during my mother’s illness and my probationary, pre-tenure existence, so I threw together a proposal for a paper on Asian American roots journeys—narratives where Asian Americans returned to their parents’ homelands for the first time. Oddly, I felt at home in Taipei, which I had last visited as a child with my immigrant parents and American siblings. Despite my illiteracy in Mandarin and my failure to buy local currency before leaving the airport (not being used to traveling alone outside the U.S.), I felt happy, surrounded for the first time in years by Chinese people, and staying in a hotel that offered noodles and rice porridge for breakfast.

My conference paper began by describing a set of personal essays about the experience of coming to China for the first time. This was Cultural Curiosity: Thirteen Stories about the Search for Chinese Roots, edited by Josephine M. T. Khu. The writers of these essays belonged, as I did, to the generations born abroad by members of the Chinese diaspora.  Like the writers Amy Tan and Gish Jen, the designer and architect Maya Lin, and many others, the writers in this collection were children of emigrants; having grown up outside of China, they had visited China for the first time as adults after it was reopened to the west. In my paper, I talked about the cultural steps taken by these essayists, many of whom were estranged linguistically, culturally, or personally from their family origins. They studied Chinese; they learned about Chinese customs; and they arrived as foreigners in China, often meeting their relatives for the first time, and struggling to understand the complex family histories their relatives related. One contributor, Lily Wu, recounted how, as visiting student at Beijing University in the 1980s, she was welcomed by her Chinese relatives while studying in Beijing, but was embarrassed to see them, because no one had informed them of her mother’s mental illness. When she got to know her mother’s brother, he and his wife took her to see her mother’s favorite sister, who had cared for her mother when they were girls. Tragically, this beautiful aunt, who resembled her mother, had also become mentally ill and been placed in a mental hospital. When Lily met her aunt, she was stricken, not only by the dozens of stories she had heard by that time of her classmates’ trials during the Cultural Revolution; not only by the terrible waste she could see in her aunt’s desolate existence; but also by the realization of her own loss when her own loving mother, due to her mental illness, had psychologically withdrawn. As I recounted Lily’s tale of overwhelming sadness and tears, and her uncle’s kind response, to my scholarly audience, I also felt stricken with sadness and deeply moved by her story. Khu’s collection had confirmed for me the stakes of this literature of migration and return: loss, mourning, reconciliation, and the telling of stories before they vanished.

Where I Have Never Been_smDuring the next fifteen years, I reviewed over 100 Asian American stories in which the theme of return drove the narrative, opened or closed doors, or defined crucial moments in people’s lives. I considered films, plays, novels, some poetry, autobiographies, memoirs, and family histories, including a wider ethnic spectrum than I can describe here. I saw that my own wish to see my parents’ country was reflected in dozens of Asian American texts and is deeply American. Indeed, the trope of return to a parent’s homeland pops up in American texts from Presidential memoirs (President Obama’s Dreams of My Father) to Hollywood films about adoptees in search of their roots (Lion; Kung Fu Panda 2). Clearly, the search for origins theme had a universal aspect. But what elements of these stories were specific to Asian Americans?

In the case of Chinese Americans, I began by believing that the position of being cut off from the ancestral country during the Cold War, and the resulting alienation and sense of personal and cultural recovery, was in itself a story being examined by a generation of writers. I knew, also, that Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Southeast Asian, and South Asian Americans were affected in various ways by the six decades of the Chinese Exclusion laws. Beginning in 1882, Chinese laborers were forbidden to enter the U.S., with exceptions made only for merchants, diplomats, students, those who had previously lived in the U.S. and could claim the right to reenter, and their children. The law excluded those of Chinese descent, whether they entered from China, Hong Kong, Canada, or Cuba. Those of Chinese descent were also barred from applying for U.S. citizenship. And in the decades after 1882, Congress and the courts had extended the exclusion laws to bar most other Asians from entry and citizenship. When I began reading return narratives, I saw how these laws had resulted in many other Asian Americans being separated from their families, even before the Cold War.

In many return narratives, the stories of earlier generations who had come to the U.S. and returned were rendered more vivid in the family histories of present-day authors who returned to Asia to understand, research, and imagine lives and stories that would otherwise be lost. I was fascinated by the stories of Lisa See’s great-grandparents, an immigrant merchant and a runaway American girl who founded an American family despite the laws against their marriage and built family businesses on both sides of the Pacific, and the story of Denise Chong’s grandmother, a young woman brought to Canada to be the concubine of a Cantonese worker; she supported both two families, one in Canada and one in Guangdong province, on the slender wages of a tea waitress. And I was touched by the story of the father-daughter team, Winberg and May-lee Chai, who described the lives of May-lee’s idealistic grandparents, Charles and Ruth Chai, brilliant scholars who studied in America and returned to rebuild China, only to find that all the seeds of the Republican government’s collapse were already in place by the time they returned in the early 1930s. In the course of my research, I had the chance to speak with Denise Chong about what it meant to break her grandparents’ silence and publish their long-held secrets. She responded that she had searched for a way to remember them and their world as they really were, before it was too late. She became my first model for the author who by writing, seeks to repair the past.

At the very beginning of the tradition of Asian American return narratives is the autobiography of Yung Wing, who came to America in the 19th century, graduated from Yale, became a U.S. citizen, returned to China in mid-century to found the first major educational exchange program between China and the U.S., married an American, and published his autobiography in 1909. As an immigrant who worked in both countries but raised his family in America, Yung not only exemplified and anticipated the transpacific travel patterns found in later stories; his book represented the first attempt by a Chinese American writer to present himself both as a global subject (the equal of European globetrotters who documented their encounters with racial others) and as a kindred spirit to the African American authors of slave narratives. At least, that’s how I see it.

Toward the very end of the tradition—the recent past—I turned to the novels of Lydia Minatoya and Ruth Ozeki to answer my own questions about how the task of representing World War Two and the attached historical controversies have been taken up by Japanese North American writers. For many decades, Japanese Canadian and Japanese American writers have written eloquently about the internment of Japanese North Americans, but have been more cautious about addressing questions of Japan’s World War Two history. However, since the resolutions of the redress movements in Canada and the U.S., Minatoya and Ozeki are among the handful of Japanese American authors who have ventured to consider issues of Japan’s wartime past, and public and private memory, while also telling engaging stories about Japanese women who come to America, then return to Japan.

Did I myself ever return to China and find my long lost relatives? Yes, but that is another story.

 

Applying Black Radical Thought to Palestinian film and media

This week in North Philly Notes, Greg Burris, author of The Palestinian Idea, writes about Black-Palestinian solidarity.

When I look at Israel today, I see Jim Crow. But when I look at Palestine, I think of Black liberation. The potential for such comparisons is evident in the words and actions of three figures in the U.S. who have recently come under fire for their support of Palestine: Ilhan Omar, Angela Davis, and Marc Lamont Hill. Omar was accused of being an anti-Semite after she took to Twitter to criticize AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Davis had a civil rights award from an institute in her hometown of Birmingham revoked as a result of her long-standing advocacy of Palestinian liberation. Hill was fired from CNN after he called for a free Palestine in a speech before the United Nations. Besides their support for Palestine, however, these three figures also share another important feature. They are all Black.

By vocally championing the Palestinian cause, each of these people is building upon a foundation of Black-Palestinian solidarity first laid over half a century ago by figures and groups like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and the Black Panther Party. While in the past these radical ties were developed through traditional media and the printed word, today they are more often forged through YouTube videos, Instagram photos, and Facebook friend requests. In the hyper-connected, social media-saturated, wireless-enabled world in which we live, Black-Palestinian solidarity has gained new visibility.

The Palestinian Idea_061818_smIn recent years, this web of transnational solidarity has received growing scholarly attention, resulting in the proliferation of journal essays, conference panels, and even book-length treatments. In my book, The Palestinian Idea: Film, Media, and the Radical Imagination, I seek to contribute to this solidarity network but not in the way one might expect. Only one chapter is specifically about Black-Palestinian solidarity, but this powerful cocktail of radical thought permeates the entire book. Thus, while the subject of The Palestinian Idea is Palestinian film and media, I tackle it through the lens of Black radical thought. Peppered throughout the book are the words and insights of thinkers like James Cone, C.L.R. James, Audre Lorde, and Assata Shakur, and the book’s theoretical foundation is based largely on the work of my late mentor Cedric Robinson, theorist of the Black Radical Tradition. Thus, while other books chronicle Black-Palestinian solidarity empirically, The Palestinian Idea seeks to take our analysis underground. That is, the book asks how these two powerful traditions of insurgency can speak to each other at the subterranean level, the level of theory, ontology, and epistemology. Exciting things can happen when Palestinian liberation rubs shoulders with Black Power.

As a young, white kid growing up in the post-Jim Crow South, I was greatly troubled by the black-and-white pictures I saw of angry white mobs terrorizing righteous Black heroes. Just twenty years before I was born, the white community of my own hometown had viciously tried to prevent Black students from integrating the local high school and college. Those snapshots of white hatred haunted me, and I remember wondering if I would have had the courage to stand up against it had I been alive at the time. Today, Jim Crow speaks Hebrew. Indeed, how else are we to make sense of the growing network of segregated streets and apartheid walls, the destruction of houses and theft of indigenous lands, the language of ethnic supremacy and hierarchical division. The Israelis even have a word for it: hafrada or separation. Just as Jim Crow had its Black resistors, Zionism has its Palestinian freedom fighters. If we can compare one, why not compare the other?

Thus, today’s Black advocates for Palestine—people like Ilhan Omar, Angela Davis, and Marc Lamont Hill—are doing important work. The hyperbolic reaction their words received proves what we all know to be true, that criticizing Israel is still a dangerous endeavor. Indeed, for some, it can even be career-ending. But there is another lesson here as well, and their words also demonstrate that Black-Palestinian solidarity is still going strong. If today’s racists build walls—whether in Palestine or on the U.S.-Mexico border—it is our job to tear them down. Indeed, that is what the Palestinian Idea is all about.

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