Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich on Monday described his participation in a town hall-style meeting with local high school students held in the Jo Long Theatre at the Carver Community Cultural Center Sunday as a way to remind young people that they are valued in the community.
Popovich organized the event and invited Dr. Cornel West, arguably the most prominent African-American educator, author, and lecturer in the U.S., and Dave Zirin, sports editor of The Nation magazine, to participate in a panel discussion. Spurs players and their families also were in attendance.
West, a provocative intellectual and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, is the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. He taught at Yale, the University of Paris, and Harvard.
West left Harvard after a highly publicized dispute with the university’s then-President Lawrence Summers in 2002, and was just recently invited back to the university to teach at the Harvard Divinity School and the department of African and African-American studies as a professor of the practice of public philosophy, according to the New York Times.
As a frequent media commentator and guest on political TV shows, West has made waves with his pointed criticism of President Barack Obama. He supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries and Green Party candidate Jill Stein during the presidential race.
The town hall was in keeping with Popovich’s career-long engagement with the community.
Sunday’s event, he said, was about “the kids.”
“In today’s environment, one can talk a good game about ‘We need this or we need that,’” Popovich said. “We need fewer disparaging remarks. We need more attention to healing the atmosphere for a lot of minority groups, whether it’s racial or things that have been said about women or handicapped people … any such talk is just talk. But, at some point there’s got to be follow-through where people are engaged. So, we were fortunate to have Cornel West actually come to San Antonio and be our, not just speaker, but our ‘player,’ so to speak. He worked with us for about three or four hours with a couple hundred students and some people here in the city, and, of course, the players, their wives, and that sort of thing.
“The purpose of it was to show the kids that even though the environment is as it is – and we’ve heard some pretty rough talk through the election – that there are people, many people at all levels, who value them greatly. They don’t need to be as fearful or feel ‘less than’ because we know who they are. We depend on them for the future. I’m not that big on adults. For obvious reasons, the kids are where we’ve got to go, and they were fantastic. They’ve (been) working for the last couple of weeks on questions, wondering about who Cornel West is, what he’s done, what he’s written, that sort of thing.
“We just had basically a little town hall for the kids,” Popovich continued. “They asked all the questions. It was about them. So, it hit the gamut. It wasn’t all just about race in America or anything like that. It was about sports, economics, police-community relations. Of course, that was pretty poignant, considering the tragedy we had losing a police officer through just horrible violence. But that’s what it was all about.
“The kids were great. It was as simple as that. We just wanted to be there for them so that they know we want to interact with them, and that a lot of people care.”
Production Editor Hanna Oberhofer contributed to this report.