#SoldOut Raising Funds and Awareness

I recall many years ago standing on the terraces at Hampden Park, Glasgow with 145,000 other rabid fans, waiting for the teams to come out of the tunnel to begin the annual Scotland v England ‘Home International’ football,(soccer), game. There would always be 140,000 Scots and about 5,000 English fans in attendance. As a Scot, born and bred, I was brought up, just like the majority of others who were standing around me, to ‘hate’ the English with a vengeance. It was just part of our parochial culture at that time, and probably still is today, although I have not lived in Scotland for 40 years and with the demise of Scottish football and an awareness that political correctness is now the order of the day, perhaps the ferocity of that hatred has mellowed. The two teams, now standing in the center of the field, would face the main stand, where all the dignitaries were seated, and the British national anthem would begin, God Save the Queen. This was before the Scots were allowed to sing their own anthem, a change in protocol that occurred some years later. The band, yes, a real brass or bagpipe band, would strike up the first chord and immediately there would be a wall of noise emanating from the Scottish support just booing as loud as possible at the UK anthem. It completely drowned out the band and any semblance they had in mind of being heard as a unit. We hated that anthem, supposedly, and we all gave it little or indeed no respect. Within seconds, our vocal distaste of everything that the British Monarchy stood for was demonstrated by this blasphemous howling and booing which seemed to last an eternity, but which in fact lasted only about 120 seconds, the length of the British national anthem being quite short. Once over, the game began and the fact that 140,000 Scottish football fanatics had remonstrated vocally against our forced inclusion under the monarchy we all loved, or at least some of us loved, was soon forgotten as the football took over and blood and guts was then spilled on the field of play rather than on the streets of Glasgow. It should also be noted that while the anthem was sung by the players on the field from the England team, all the Scottish team just stood in silence, some smiling, some not, but to a tee, not one of the Scottish team would sing along. It was an unwritten rule, followed religiously. Silent protests against supposed oppression, acceptable and respected throughout the world. No harm done, no one to cry foul. Until now!

When Colin Kaepernick knelt down for the Star Spangled Banner whilst playing for the San Francisco 49rs some two years ago, the whole world, at least the world that surrounded American Football and Donald Trump, went berserk, and for what reason? Well as far as I can tell, the National Anthem was never played at any sporting event before the end of the second world war. And even after that, there were sports events in the USA where the anthem remained just a figment of everyone’s imagination, laying silent as battle commenced on the field of play. So why, all of a sudden, after Kaepernick and some of his fellow Pro’s decided to protest, quite justifiably in silence to make what has turned out to be a very relevant point on an issue that has haunted this country for generations, has the President of the United States and the owners of some of the football teams where protests have been continual and well publicized, lost the plot by telling players they will be fired if they continue to ‘abuse their privilege’? There is not one reason on earth why anyone should be forced to alter their beliefs, especially those who feel threatened or abused and more especially inside a country that not only preaches pure democracy and a right to free speech to the whole planet, but a country that encourages its populous to be vocal in the form of protest when under threat of unjustifiable racism. Racism is rife in America. You can smell it in the streets, it’s a pollution that has become silent in its poisoning of its population. Racism cannot be tolerated, hatred of anyone, any race, any creed and any color has to be kicked out, but, unfortunately, and in the opinion of this author, it’s just being swept under an already filthy carpet, where, when the dust is uncovered, it becomes a mountain of trash that is becoming ever worse and unstoppable, fueled by a President and government that just turns a blind eye and looks the other way whilst telling us all, quite disingenuously that there is absolutely nothing wrong! Well, not much!

My guitar teacher Tony, remember him from the first article I wrote last week, inspired me to make the lapel pins you see in the image above. The players protesting and following in the footsteps of Kaepernick, have a right to do so. It’s not disrespectful, it’s poignant, it’s their human right, it’s peaceful and most importantly, it’s something they believe in. However, it seems if these protests carry on players will be fired or, and I say this with the utmost respect, the President will have to intervene personally, something not one of us would like to see happen.

With all of this in mind, I have this idea, not only to raise the awareness to a very great cause, but to raise money for charities associated with racism and the profound effect that racism still holds on our society. The #SOLDOUT will soon display the pins pictured above for sale, to make people aware that there is genuine suffering out there, whether it be in the murdering of Jews in Pittsburgh, or the simplicity of daily senseless traffic stops on innocent African Americans, it matters not. We have a right to protest, so by wearing this pin, our protests shall be seen, and by the money we raise, out protests shall be heard.

Keep reading this blog for more updates and check out our Instagram #soldout to get your pin.

If there are any athletes, well known or otherwise and or charities, who would like to be considered as spokes people for this idea, please get in touch. Colin Kaepernick, if you read this please know that I have tried in many different ways to contact you because I believe you should lead this movement, but to date, no response.

Thank you everyone.

#Sold Out

I have a music teacher, his name is Tony. Tony is black and adopted. He is 25. His mother and father are white. His real mother and father are no longer alive. He comes from Texas, lives now in California and was educated at Julliard in New York. Tony is a fine upstanding citizen, a musical genius and a pleasure to be around. I’ve known him for two years, and not once in that time had we ever discussed race, or the place it plays in US society. Not once, until last year, when all the American Football players began to kneel during the national anthem before their games began. We were sitting playing guitars, strumming away to AC/DC Back in Black, when suddenly I turned round to him and asked this very question.

“Tony, be honest with me, very honest, no BS. You’re black, you’re African-American, and you’ve seen what’s going on in this country for the past months with all the athletes kneeling during the national anthem. You’ve seen what Black Lives Matter have been saying and doing, you’ve witnessed at first hand how this country is so divided, but have you personally ever suffered any kind of racial abuse, either growing up or since you moved to CA a few years ago?”

When I asked this question I was somewhat convinced that just like everything else we read or see on TV, the bias towards sensationalism in our media far in a way outweighed the reality of life. I fully expected Tony to turn round and tell me that most of what we were looking at on TV was stage-managed to drum up support for factions in society that had nothing better to do than create issues that really didn’t assist in the harmonic bliss I seemed to live with on a daily basis. How wrong and how naive was I. This is what Tony said to me.

” Alan, I have lived 25 years, in Texas, New York and now CA. In all 3 States I lived in nice middle class suburban areas, other than in NY where Manhattan is as diverse as it comes and everyone seems very wealthy. Let me tell you how life really is if you’re black. Let me also tell you how I have seen it, living with white parents, white students and now in a predominantly white middle class area here in Orange County. Let me also tell you that what I am about to say is not at all exaggerated. It’s the truth. After you listen, you can then decide who is embellishing the truth.” He looked at me straight in the eye and then he began.

“I drive a great car, a Ford Mustang Shelby. I drive it everywhere because there’s no public transportation down here in OC. Do you know I get stopped by the cops at least twice a week? Do you know why I get stopped? I don’t speed, I don’t do anything illegal, I just get pulled over. It doesn’t matter if I am here in Laguna, or in long Beach or up in LA. I get stopped, and every time it’s the same nonsense.

” You’re joking?” I said, not quite believing what he was saying.

He continued.

” I am a music teacher, I drive to schools, I drive to people’s homes, white people, Chinese people, brown people, black people. It doesn’t matter. If I pass a cop, especially where schools are located, they will come from nowhere, lights flashing, pull me over and ask me why I am where I am. It happens so regularly now that I know the drill off pat. I stop, put my hands where they can be seen, wait for the cops to come to my window and I stay silent until they ask me the very same question every single time.”

“What question Tony?” I asked.

“What are you doing here son?”

“Son??” I laughed

“Yes. SON!. No respect. As soon as I tell them I am a music teacher with clients in the neighborhood, as soon as they see my guitar, my books and my other instruments, they very quickly and impolitely step away and wave me off as if I’m a piece of dirt they’d just happened to get stuck on the side of their highly polished shoes, and without apology, send me on my way”

Well Tony’s story blew me away. It got me thinking that I really knew nothing about the racism that people were going through on a daily basis and that being closeted, very comfortably, in a predominantly white are with predominantly white friends and a very white attitude, was so far from reality, that I had to take action. I had to find a vehicle to show my support for the black community and all the black friends I had. It was time to do something to raise awareness, time to react and time to make a statement that will never be forgotten.

At the top of this page you’ll find a lapel pin design. In my next post, later this week, I will send out more information on a campaign I am going to run in conjunction with some major athletes in the USA to raise awareness for a cause that most of you know is already rife in our society. A cause that millions of people suffer from each and every day in a country where everyone is supposedly equal but as I have come to find out, where no one actually is.

#SOLDOUT

Samantha Gets A New Chair

Samantha is 8. She has Spina Bifida. She’s had numerous surgeries, had plates inserted in her spine and yet, as you can see, she’s ready and able to participate in sports. Thanks to her new sport wheelchair, which was presented to her today, Samantha now has access to a whole new world, made possible by the generosity of those who donate to this wonderful program. It costs over $3000 for a sport wheelchair, an absolute fortune for those who have limited funds and a continual battle just to keep up with the medical bills that afflict families like Samantha’s. It’s a blessing when ever an athlete like Samantha can get into a chair custom-made for her height and weight and participate alongside those athletes to whom she aspires. Her courage is can be seen in the generosity of those more fortunate, and with this in mind I urge you to please take even the simplest of steps to assist in making the lives of others who have to spend their lives in wheelchairs, more bearable.

Just by going to http://www.smile.amazon.com, and yes, we all use Amazon at some point, nominating Far West Wheelchair Sports as your charity, every time you make a purchase, not matter how small, some of your money will go towards helping athletes like Samantha. Every penny is put to great use and no amount is too small.

You can also donate a chair, or part of a chair to a worthy candidate by contacting me through this blog or by going to http://www.fwwaa.org and donating there.

Samantha had a great day today. Please help her and her friends have an even better day tomorrow.
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A Simple Way To Help

download (1)Last night at the monthly board meeting for FWWAA, the association for Wheel Chair Athletes here in San Jose, we began discussing our ideas for events to raise money and awareness for our athletes over the next few months when suddenly out of left field, Jessica, one of the board, says “Amazon Smile sent us a check”

Curious, I asked, what’s Amazon Smile? Having already heard about it in an off the cuff remark made to me by an old friend some months ago, but not having paid much notice to it at that time.

Jessica began to explain. She told me that if you purchase items from Amazon, the regular site, all you do it go to smile.amazon.com and search for FWWAA. After you do this, each time you visit smile.amazon.com, they donate a percentage of your purchase to the FWWAA. What a deal! A simple, effective and unobtrusive way to help change lives.

I came home and signed up immediately. It was easy to do and didn’t take more than 1 minute. I then put out a request on my Facebook page for my friends to follow suit. So far over 50 people have signed up since 6 pm last night.

As I said, it’s very easy, go to smile.amazon.com, sign in with your account and then under the search bar, join up with FWWAA to help raise funds at no cost to you! And of course if you feel you would like to donate directly, please visit fwwaa.org any time. All donations, no matter how small, are always appreciated.

Thanks so much for considering this. You will be helping many athletes achieve their dreams and goals!

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Cowboys In Suits, Not Jeans

downloadLast night Levi’s, based right here in San Francisco, announced they were laying off over 800 workers, mostly management positions, to save money. When I heard this I was blown away, perhaps shocked would be language more suited to this news story. My immediate thoughts went to those who are now going to join the ranks of our unemployment lines, growing larger and larger every day. My next thought was, “shit, this company must be in big trouble if they fired so many so quickly!”  And after pondering the question of ‘if Levi’s go out of business where will I buy my jeans?’ for about ten seconds, it hit me, and it hit me hard.

You guys just spent $220 million for the naming rights to the new San Francisco football stadium which opens up in about 12 weeks time, so what on earth are you thinking about by firing 800 people??

It made no sense to me. Again, typifying the attitude I have found in the United States by putting football, a stupidly overrated American sport, before human lives. So, 800 families are about to be put through seemingly endless torture and suffering and the 49’rs football team will benefit from these families misfortune? Farcical.

Who makes these decisions? What benefit can Levi’s, and all those other companies who’ve spent a trillion dollars naming breeze block edifices across the country, possibly gain by spending their profits, or perhaps lack of, on signage instead of humanity. The very people who assisted in getting them into a position of being able to afford such signage from the beginning? The world is screwed up when $220 million is spent by those advertising cowboys who wear suits, not jeans. Tell me I’m nuts. Tell me $220 million is worth every penny spent. Tell me I have no appreciation of the ‘real’ world out there, but when you tell me all these things, tell it to those who today, find themselves kicked gloriously to the curbside in favor of bragging rights.

Levi’s you should be ashamed.

 

Changing A Life

IMG_7310Have you have had the opportunity to change someone’s life, someone you don’t know? Perhaps we change lives every day just by giving our time, a small donation, or maybe even just a simple smile and passing glance to someone who attracts our attention. Whatever way we believe we achieve this feat, it’s always a welcome interlude in the complicated extravagant lives most of us choose to live. I watched a movie on Netflix this week called Happy. I’ve always believed that we don’t need too much to bring contentment into our own little world and that movie confirmed that we, probably all of us in the western hemisphere, live such extravagant existence’s truly for no good reason at all. We were all raised in a materialistic mode, even if it’s not that extravagant. We were all told that success is often measured by the items we collect, and in some cases those items are more than just man-made objects. The trophies collected during our time on this planet seem meaningless and insignificant in comparison to those who have collected nothing other than the affection and trust of their families and friends, measuring happiness and wealth as pure love. Our whole ideal of rat eat rat, of total accumulation, is really quite pathetic when put into the context of not being able to take anything with you when you die. It always makes me shudder when I look at those who have so much, indeed far more than they can ever need, and then at those who have nothing, or very little, and I wonder, often out loud, ‘why don’t you just stop, slow down and help?” And unfortunately this evolution of wealth v poverty has been static since time began. Survival of the fittest. You are born lucky or you’re just born. It all boils down to where your mother had sex with your father. You come out smiling and comfortable or smiling and poor. There is seemingly no in between, or perhaps there is and I am just being black and white.

Tomorrow night however, two lives will be changed, and changed for the better. Two special ladies, who, through no fault their own have been wheelchair bound since they were born, will be given a new lease on a life that I can only describe as being difficult. To spend all day, every day in a chair, unable to use your legs or any of your lower body, might seem so foreign to most of us that we just shrug it off with a ‘well it’s not me. so I don’t care” kind of attitude. It’s not something we really think about. After all we are for the most part, healthy, often ignoring the things in life that could make us feel uncomfortable. We have strict tendencies to block out thoughts that are irrelevant to the way we live, hoping that with the will of God, we won’t ever face some of the challenges those who are less fortunate have to endure on a daily basis. Perfection is something that is found only inside imagination, and none of us have been blessed with anything other than overly active imaginations. Karah and Annie, pictured above, also have imagination, only their idea of perfection is to be found in their strong will and determination. Both dream of being as normal as you and I. Both dream of lives that can never be. Both want to have success and both want to be seen as nothing but the two pretty women they are, trying hard to lead lives that are meaningful and filled with purpose. Tomorrow night another part of their dreams will be fulfilled.

Both ladies above will be presented with brand new sport wheelchairs, bought from donations made by the fundraising efforts of a softball team here in San Jose called the Bay Blizzard. 12 young 16-year-old ladies took part in a challenge softball game against wheelchair athletes from Wheels on Fire last Fall. The ladies and their coaches were so impressed by the attitude of their wheelchair adversaries, that they decided, on their own cognizance, to make the effort and raise over $4000 to buy Karah and Annie the sport chairs they thought they deserved. Karah and Annia didn’t know anything about this until yesterday and tomorrow night that the FWWAA Spaghetti feed, the largest fund-raiser of the year for that particular organization, the two ladies will receive their chairs and this my friends, will completely change their lives for the better. It’s hard enough being wheelchair bound for life, but it’s even harder for those who are to be able to play sports without the assistance of this incredible sports chair. Receiving this chair completely changes their approach to ball games such as basketball, softball, and hockey. It gives them the ability to compete, just like you or I would, on an even playing field with those who have been fortunate enough in being able to afford such a chair already. This is a HUGE deal and one that I as a spectator and excited to see happen when the presentation is complete tomorrow evening.

If you would like more information on how you too can help change a life, please go to FWWAA.org or come tomorrow to the Camden Community Center in San Jose and join us for the chance to see in person what changing a life can do for your own inner self!

Kenny

downloadI met a young man called Kenny this weekend. He’s wheelchair bound because he was born with Muscular Dystrophy. His brother has the same disease. They don’t live together, nor do they see one another very often. Kenny’s mother has her own life, and his father is nowhere to be found. Kenny though has aim in his life. He insists on being independent.

When I was asked to go and meet Kenny, he had been singled out as having a huge talent in the sport of power soccer. Power soccer is played in electric-powered chairs that are piloted or driven by some very determined and capable athletes. It’s a hugely popular and up and coming sport for those who are wheelchair bound, and not only is it played at inter league level all across the USA, it’s an Olympic sport too. Kenny, just like most of the athletes around the bay area, is living his life around his soccer dreams. He takes three busses to get to practice, which is held twice a week about 10 miles away from where he lives. He does this in his electric wheelchair, receiving assistance to get on and off each time he changes busses, a process which takes him 2 hours to complete from door to door. Once he’s finished with practice, normally late into the evening, he repeats this process, going in the opposite direction to get home. Kenny was doing the same thing to get to his job at Safeway, again, 3 bus journeys too and from work. Unfortunately for Kenny, the busses often ran late and after a year of excuses, Safeway fired him a few weeks ago because they failed to understand why public transportation should be held responsible for Kenny’s tardiness. Understandable really if you’re Mr. Safeway, incomprehensible though if you’re Kenny in a wheelchair.

Kenny lives in low-income housing, near a large outdoor shopping mall in San Jose, but to date, has failed to regain employment because the companies hiring around his home are not as open as Safeway were to employing men and women who have the range of disability that Kenny endures. Very unfortunate, when you think we live in a society that treats employment opportunity as an equal right in most cases. And so, Kenny lives on $10,000 per year, (yes, you read that correctly,10 grand a year!), which he receives in benefits from the State of CA. I have no idea how he survives, but he finds a way to make it happen, eating perhaps only once a day, or not eating at all on other days. He has no TV, no luxuries whatsoever and, as I mentioned earlier, his only passion is his power soccer. He lives it, breathes it and dreams it.

After talking with Kenny and another gentleman called John, I was informed that the game of power soccer has evolved into something of a Grand Prix race. It used to be that Kenny, along with everyone else playing this sport, could do so in the chair they used in their everyday lives. That chair costs about $25,000, (yes, again, you read that correctly!), the main expense being the motors that power the wheels and the electronics that drive the intelligence required to steer the chair. I had a hard time believing all of this when I saw how basic this chair seemed to be, but these are facts, not fiction. With the advancement of technology in both alloys and electronics, a company in Minnesota has now developed a power soccer chair that can not only out think, out maneuver and out power regular chairs, it is also safer and more efficient and an absolute MUST if you want to progress to Olympic level in this sport. The catch?? It costs $8700! A fortune for anyone, let alone a disabled athlete who has already spent 25 grand just to live a normal kind of life and would like the luxury of this soccer chair just to play a game!

Kenny and John are trying to raise funds for their organization to buy the new power chairs, which would enable players on their team to compete with teams from rest of the country who are already using these machines. With some effort, I believe they will be successful in their plight to compete and eventually John hopes that he will manage to raise enough to purchase a total of 4 chairs, which would ‘arm’ his team with the weapons they require to take a run at the national championships. I have placed a link below to the only manufacturer of these chairs in the USA. If you go to that link you’ll see just how expensive a hobby playing power soccer can be, but if you also take a moment to realize that this game is all these athletes have to try to help them live some kind of normal life, then perhaps you’ll understand just how important it is to them to make this happen. Kenny, after all, will continue to take his three busses there and back, with or without this incredible chair, because he loves the sport. But just how long will John be able to keep his team running if he’s unable to put out a team that can compete? If the team crumbles, what kind of existence will Kenny have? I dread to think. It’s already a lifestyle that sends shivers from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet and I really can’t understand how he survives the way he does.

The meeting gave me a brand new appreciation of ‘living to make ends meet’, and I for one am going to try to support Kenny and his teammates as best I can in the coming months. If you think you might also be interested in helping out, please go to fwwaa.org, and donate. Every cent will help propel an athlete towards their dreams.

http://www.powersoccershop.com/strikeforcepowerwheelchairandsoccerguard.aspx