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Newberry-winning author joins Mayor to encourage students to read

Screen capture/Mayor Byron Brown Zoom chat

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown brought in a prominent special guest - though remotely - to read passages to local students in what took on an unofficial Black Lives Matter theme. One of the excerpts came from a work penned following the death of George Floyd.

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator and award-winning author of 35 books. He has on numerous occasions contributed to National Public Radio's Morning Edition. On Wednesday, he could be seen on a Zoom chat screen, telling 7th and 8th Grade students in Buffalo Public Schools that reading is an important step in preparing for greatness.

And, using basketball as an analogy, he urged the youngsters to always keep trying.

"Dribble, fake, shoot miss. Dribble, fake, shoot, miss. Dribble, fake, shoot, miss. Dribble, fake, shoot, swish," he said. "Keep taking the shot. You may not make it the first time, or the 50th or the 100th. But you're never gonna make it if you stop shooting. You've got to keep taking your shot."

Alexander, who was appearing from London, England during the event, read an excerpt from a book he co-authored with James Patterson, "Becoming Muhammad Ali," in which the late boxing champion recalled a dedication to boxing as a 13-year-old which, along the way, meant losing matches and even a girlfriend to his best friend. The author also read Ali's account of the time in the 1950s when his father called him into the house to show him a grisly magazine photo of Emmitt Till, a teenager who was lynched in Mississippi.

"Before we got home, before when we got home from the training in the gym, I made my brother jump rope with me for another 15 minutes, and then do bicycle crunches and sit ups in the backyard until we both just collapsed under the stars, dreaming about the future, until daddy brought us back to the present," Alexander read. "We thought we'd done something wrong when he kept hollering for us to come inside. But when we did, and saw him shaking his head, chin trembling and grief pouring from his eyes, we thought again. And when he showed us the picture of the dead boy, we cried too."

Alexander's work also includes “Light For The World To See: A Thousand Words On Race And Hope,” which he wrote following the death of George Floyd last year. Mayor Brown took the liberty of reading a passage from that work, just one day after Floyd's killer, former police office Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murder in the case.

"This for the unlit, unstoppable ones. Dreamers and doers who swim across the big sea of our imagination and show us the majestic shores of the Promised Land," Brown read. "This is for the unbelievable, the 'we real cool' ones. This is for the unbending the Black as the night is beautiful one. This is for the underdogs and the uncertain, the unspoken, but no longer untitled. This is for the undefeated. This is for you, and you and you. This is for us."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.