“Choices we make about the lives we live, determine the kinds of legacy that we live” – Tavis Smiley
On January 4, 2015, Stuart Scott, the infamous “hip-hop” sportscaster who changed the game for sports casting with his distinct style on ESPN’s SportsCenter, passed away at 49 years old. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 that eventually would go into remission, but his cancer would roar back twice ultimately claiming his life despite a powerful fight he showed to the world. So before my current favorite duo, Neil and Stan, there was Rich and Stuart, and there was nothing like it. For those unfamiliar, real sports fans would watch SportsCenter regardless of who was hosting, but you REALLY watched SportsCenter when Stuart and Rich was on, it was entertaining, informative, and just down right funny. Looking at the response to Stuart Scott’s life, made me think how we view legacy in our society and what role it plays. Especially, how we analyze celebrities/famous people whether it is in sports, politics, music, and anyone else in the public eye. Every one leaves a legacy, regardless of their popularity or fame. Yet, it often appears that people in the limelight are placed with a heavier burden in terms of the legacy that they leave, but that is not entirely the case. Should we not all be concerned about the life we lead, and the fruit we produce from our labor?
When I look at Stuart Scott, there is no doubt that he left a positive legacy, but if you looked at him, or as I remember him watching him as a sport caster, he was going to leave a legacy regardless; it’s just that life’s circumstances, his diagnosis, his fight, allowed him to leave a different type of legacy. We are faced with choices every day, and the selections we make will have a direct impact on our lives and determine our legacy. So at times, it may appear we are on track to leave a legacy of a certain stature, but subsequent choices either amplify or tarnish that legacy. I can’t help but think of Michael Jackson, who, to this day, is my favorite artist of all time, but I find it very hard to listen to his music as I once did religiously, not because his music isn’t masterful or his dancing wasn’t perfectly choreographed; for now, something just feels a little funny when I hear his voice. Do I like think MJ’s legacy is tainted, to me, of course not, but in reality, how could it not be.
As I’ve grown older, I have gotten out of the habit of idolizing stars or adoring political heroes. Maybe because I have had the opportunity to meet more people with power, fame or prestige; you realize that they really are just like the rest of us, and how we view their legacy is just as important as I view my brother, my cousin, or my own legacy. We all have to go down this journey of life, and what you put into it, will produce a certain result…well, unless you happen to fall into a history book, movie reel, tv mini-series, or heck, on the history channel.
What on earth do I mean? The recent controversy over the depiction LBJ and Martin Luther King, Jr. interaction in the movie, Selma, highlights how much we really care about the legacy that will remain in history even if it is not exactly accurate. It is not a matter of whether Selma sensationalize certain parts of the movie for entertainment purposes, because there are plenty of movies with a bona fide WRITTEN MANUSCRIPT. i.e. any movie from the bible, they twll whatever story want. It’s the argument about which side of history is correct.
So here’s the jist of the controversy. There are LBJ historians and aides that came out the wood work criticizing the film for falsely portraying President Lyndon B. Johnson as resistant to the idea of voting rights and even suggested the march in Selma was “his” idea. The Director of Selma called the claim, “jaw dropping and offensive”. Now, I am a lover of history, and find both of the approaches to the legacy of this incident incorrect. Luckily, I did not have to defend this position on my intuition (clearly, I was not there), but Andrew Young, an aide to MLK, Jr., said that both depictions don’t quite have it right. “We could not have had this bill without LBJ, but LBJ could not have passed it without Martin Luther King”, and more poignantly, Young said, “It is unfair for anybody to talk about credit. Too many people gave their lives. Too many people risked too much”. (source). These comments by Mr. Young words are powerful words for a man who is as much of a part of the legacy of MLK, Jr. Wouldn’t you imagine that is what MLK, Jr. would’ve said? It’s about all the people who gave for the movement, not battling between two actors. We know that LBJ had some part in passing the Civil Rights Act, but let’s not give him too much credit, because the fight was going on for many years. Nor would MLK, as I would imagine, want to wrongly characterize the man who ultimately assisted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Why can’t we give credit, where credit is due?
A theme I write about often, is that at times, it feels we want to be at odds at each other; Republicans and Democrats, Muslims, and Christians, and so forth. But in a movie that is about overcoming difficult obstacles and to bring about equality, why can’t we get the story straight? Or agree upon simple truths, is being right more important than the truth? What will our children think of the society that we are building based of disagreement and separation? We need to be trying to leave a legacy of togetherness, finding the commonalities that bridge gaps and make changes in our society. If we can’t even tell the story of MLK, Jr. and LBJ right, what hope do we really have?
One might wonder how all of these thoughts came together. Although, I know the controversy is probably good for the movie ratings, it’s counter to the legacy of MLK, Jr. and LBJ, and I couldn’t help but pay a little respect to my man Stuart Scott who left a powerful legacy about how we should live. If we look at what Stuart said in acceptance speech for the Jimmy V award, about beating cancer, “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live”. We my friends need to apply that to the life that we live, and the legacy that we leave.
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