Five C's players — Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins, Marquis Daniels, Shelden Williams and Brian Scalabrine — took some time out of their Thursday afternoon to meet with a group of 25 freshmen from Boston English High School and celebrate Black History Month. The event, co-sponsored by the Celtics and the Massachusetts Army National Guard, was an educational experience for the students and players alike.
"This is one of my favorite events on our calendar," said Matt Meyersohn, community relations manager for the Celtics. "What I love about this event is that instead of people up at the front of a room talking at the kids, it's instead really interactive. And the players are directly working as a member of a team with a group of high school students and working together to make this the best event possible."
The afternoon consisted of three parts. First was a sit-down with the players, students and members of the National Guard, in which they convened in groups to study black history using crossword puzzles and games. Next came individual presentations from each group in which each was given a famous quote in black history to discuss with the rest of the class. Finally came the grand finale: the trivia contest in which each of the five Celtic player-led groups sat down to compete in a Jeopardy-style game with pride on the line.
The students fielded questions on topics from politics to military history to show business — and they knew their stuff. It got competitive toward the end, especially as Team Davis surged into the lead late in the game. Davis' kids nailed the final question as Team Perk and Team Daniels had to settle for a close second and third, respectively.
"We got cheated," Daniels joked. "We need a recount."
While the event got competitive toward the end, especially as Davis let out a primal scream as his team prevailed, the day was more about bonding with students and celebrating America's rich history. And as Meyersohn pointed out, the Celtics are a franchise with a strong bond to African-American history in the United States.
"The Celtics' legacy really has a lot to do with inclusion," Meyersohn said. "From Red Auerbach as a patriarch of this organization and what he's done — from drafting the first African-American player, to hiring the first African-American coach, to being the first to start five African-Americans at the same time, there's a lot of history in his organization. So we really feel like it's our duty and our opportunity to get to share that with the next generation."
Meyersohn, the National Guard members and the players all worked together to make the day a memorable event for all the students involved. And for all three, it was an event borne out of enthusiasm, not obligation.
"It's a lot of fun to see the excitement on the kids' faces, and also, it's so much fun to see how much the players really enjoy doing this kind of thing. Seeing them excited, seeing them not want to leave at the end of the event, asking for more time on every part of the activities. It's fun to see that they're not doing this as a requirement, but they're doing this because they truly enjoy it. That came through today."
Davis, for one, loved every minute of the experience.
"It was unbelievable," said the Celtics' third-year forward, who participates in the event every year. "I hope they learned something, I hope they got something out of it, and I'm sure they learned from the situation. So it was a really good experience, not just for me but for the kids also."
It's not every day you get to combine the experience of meeting a group of NBA players with the chance to broaden your historical perspective. But the Boston English students were able to balance the two with ease.
"My hope is that they walk away not just with a great experience, getting to hang out with professional athletes, but also really learning the importance of understanding where we all come from, the history that all of us have," Meyersohn said. "Not just African-Americans during Black History Month, but everyone. And the people that have come before us laid the path for the kind of world we live in today."
At the end of the day, it was a educational experience for everyone involved, not just the students.
"I sure learned some things," Daniels said. "And I'm sure they learned a lot too."
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