BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
This inaccurate cultural profile not only has a negative impact on every Black person under evaluation for any kind of upward mobility, but it also sends the message to Black youth that they have a cultural obligation to be idiots, and that the pursuit of knowledge is "un-Black," thus, not cool.
The media also sends the message to Black youth that their cultural niche in society is limited to becoming either an athlete or an entertainer. While it is true that Black people tend to excel in those areas, that's only because for much of our African American history those were the only areas in which we were allowed to participate. The fact is, however, and as any cognitive researcher can attest, creativity is one of the primary indicators of overall intelligence. Thus, the very same creativity that goes into the making of a Charlie Parker, Ray Charles, or an Aretha Franklin, can easily be transferred to medical research, physics, or cosmology.
In that regard, I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Richard Allen Williams. Dr. Williams was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. Upon graduating from Howard High School at the top of his class with a 4.0 grade-point average, he was awarded a full scholarship to Harvard University, from which he also graduated with honors, and as the first African American student at Harvard from the state of Delaware.
Dr. Williams received his M.D. degree from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, and performed his internship at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. He did his residency in internal medicine at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, and his cardiology fellowship at UCLA Medical Center, and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Mass.
He was an instructor in Cardiology at Harvard Medical School, where he founded and directed the Central Recruitment Council of Boston Hospitals, which recruited significant numbers of Black medical trainees to Boston hospitals for the first time in their history. He then served for three years as the initial Assistant Medical Director at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital in Watts, California. In that capacity he was charged with the responsibility of opening the hospital. During his tenure he and Dr. David Satcher collaborated on writing a grant proposal which resulted in a $2.5 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to establish the King-Drew Sickle Cell Center, of which he became the Director.
Following that appointment, he accepted the position of Chief of the Heart Station and Coronary Care Unit at the West Los Angeles VA Hospital, eventually becoming head of Cardiology. He was also the first Black full Professor in the history of the Department of Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine - and his resume continues for an additional three pages of increasingly impressive accomplishments from there.
But we shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that Dr. Williams remains cocooned in an ivory tower. He's also a professional musician and leader of the jazz group Raw Sugar. Rich is a formidable trumpet player who can hang with the best in the business - and he has. He was not only Miles Davis' physician, but he was mentored on trumpet by the late, and illustrious, Clifford Brown. The doctor has played all over the world with jazz greats such as Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Lou Donaldson, Herman Riley, Hubert Laws, and many others. He has also appeared at the world renowned Birdland, New York City's cultural monument dedicated to the incomparable Charles "Yardbird" Parker.
So you see, President Obama is not the anomaly that many would have us believe. The Black community is literally brimming over with creative brilliance, and we're being unforgivably remiss in not making that fact clear to both, our young people, and the world.
Eric L. Wattree
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