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About the AuthorRich Robinson is the CEO and publisher of Rise News. He is also a journalist and a native of Miami. Robinson graduated from the University of Alabama and can be followed on Twitter @RichRobMiami.
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This article was originally published on risemiaminews.com on June 9, 2015.
By Linzee Werkmeister
Sam Stokesberry has taken her love of children, God and soccer across the Atlantic to the Western Cape region of South Africa and channeled it into something truly inspiring.
In January of this year, Stokesberry packed her bags and moved 7,672 miles away to Stellenbosch, South Africa. She is currently working for a nonprofit organization called training4changeS, where they focus on using the sport of Futsal to build relationships with the local youth to make a difference in their lives. Futsal is typically played indoors on a hard court and features five players to a side.
The ages of the participants currently range between 5-7 years old, but it’s Stokesberry’s hope to journey with them as they get older. Stokesberry works with the children after school twice a week and every other Friday for futsal league games.
“Our program includes social impact lessons and games that focus on issues such as gender equality, using your voice, discrimination, drug abuse prevention, anti-racism, violence prevention, HIV prevention, teamwork, and making wise choices,” Stokesberry said. “Our goal is to incorporate social impact games into our Futsal practices so we can create a safe learning environment that will keep the kids off the streets and out of danger after school.”
Stokesberry grew up playing soccer in South Florida. She was good at it too and played club soccer while at the University of Central Florida. After graduating with a degree in Sports and Fitness, she worked for several private strength and conditioning facilities including Primal Fit Miami and the Fast Twitch Performance Training.
She also coached soccer at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory at the high school level and at Doctors Charter School at both the high school and middle school level.
In 2012, Stokesberry first visited South Africa to attend a six-week International Sports Leadership Training Course hosted by the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and SCAS (Sport for Christ Action South Africa). She lived with a group of Americans who also attended the course, and then returned the following year as a co-leader. Stokesberry said that she knew then that South Africa would become her second home.
“When I first came to South Africa in 2012, I saw the great need there was in this country for change and empowerment especially amongst the youth. I also saw their passion and love for soccer which was something I could relate to,” Stokesberry said. “My heart broke when I heard about the obstacles that these kids were having to battle through, and I developed such a great love and compassion for them.”
The following year in 2013 Stokesberry was given an opportunity to come back to the country and coach soccer.
“Being able to see the kids who were told that they would never amount to anything, become kids who now value their own lives and the lives of the next generation is a huge inspiration to me,” Stokesberry said. “They are setting a new standard and they are standing up against hate, indifference, and oppression. It’s been a huge blessing to witness the heart and life changes in these kids and amongst the South African coaches we hire on our staff. I am surrounded by some amazing overcomers and fighters each day I show up to work.”
Stokesberry currently works with six different primary schools in the Western Cape area, and each school is composed of a different demographic. The group, training4changeS promotes cultural diversity and a family-like atmosphere amongst the students and the staff which can be rare to find in South Africa because of deep standing racial tension.
In addition to working with training4changeS, Stokesberry is also partnering with Ambassadors in Football who work with juvenile inmates in Hope Academy within Drakenstein Prison, which is famously known for being where Nelson Mandela was held in the final years of his prison sentence.
The groups says that they focus on “Faith, Football, and Future” by maintaining a strict set of core values within the prison. They are a Christian organization who share the love and hope of Jesus through soccer, while also teaching the boys about character development and life skills.
Aside from her efforts through an athletic platform, Stokesberry works with STOP – Stop Trafficking Of People, which is an organization that fights against sex trafficking by raising awareness throughout Africa by hosting school presentations and outreaches for young people.
STOP is also in the process of establishing safe houses for human trafficking victims in the Western Cape area.
Back in 2012, at the FCA International Sports Leadership Training Course, Stokesberry made fast friends with Rencia Young, a South African who she now coaches alongside with for training4changeS.
“She’s a very passionate, loving and kind person. I adore her, her heart for people is pretty amazing,” Young said of Stokesberry. “She’s full of compassion and that’s what makes her so good in what she does, whether it’s coaching, handing out food to prostitutes or playing soccer with prisoners. I am learning a lot from her especially when it comes to compassion and love towards those who it’s difficult to love.”
Stokesberry said that growing up in South Florida helped prepare her for life in a diverse nation like South Africa.
“Miami is incredibly multicultural, and so is South Africa. But a huge difference is the amount of racism that takes place in this country,” Stokesberry said. “In Miami, I grew up in school surrounded by different languages and cultures and skin colors, but we were all equal and valuable. Women are also discriminated against when it comes to sports, so the young girls who are interested in playing lack the female role models and leaders to look up to in the industry. It’s a lot harder for a girl to succeed in sports than it is for a man in this country. For women, the opportunities just aren’t there…yet.”
Cover Photo Credit: training4changeS/Submitted
This article was originally published on risemiaminews.com.Post Views: 956
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PEOPLE POWER: Mizzou System President Resigns After 7 Day Campus Hunger Strike, Football Team Strike
UPDATED: 11:29 AM EST
Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri system has resigned after a 7 day hunger strike led by graduate student Jonathan L. Butler.
The mass protest, organized by the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement was given support by a large number of football players and coaches who refused to practice or play until Wolfe resigned.
A day after over 30 African-American football players at the University of Missouri announced their intention to strike until university system Tim Wolfe resigned, the rest of the team and coaching staff has joined the effort.
Head Coach Gary Pinkel announced the solidarity of the team via Twitter in a message that quickly went viral:
— Coach Gary Pinkel (@GaryPinkel) November 8, 2015
By using the #ConcernedStudent1950, Pinkel and his team linked themselves to a growing campus movement that is demanding change.
A graduate student and campus activist named Jonathan L. Butler has been on a hunger strike for the past 5 days. He is a leader of the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement.
Butler has demanded that Missouri system president Tim Wolfe resign or Butler will starve himself to death.
Wolfe has been the target of a large protest over the past week due to perceptions among some students that he does not care about recent racially charged incidents that were reported on the campus.
“There is no reforming him,” Butler told Rise News of Wolfe. “With him as a leader, he has not taken a firm stance on these issues or tried to make it a more inclusive campus.
Last night, over thirty black players on the Mizzou football team announced that they would not participate in any further football related activities until Wolfe left office.
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Cover Photo Credit: Gary Pinkel/ TwitterPost Views: 924
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By Alex Austin
On Friday night, an NFL preseason game that would not have otherwise been of any great consequence played home to a silent political protest which has got the whole nation a-flutter.
San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand during the playing of the national anthem before the game.
In explanation, Kaepernick said,”I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The last sentence is of course in reference to the numerous cases concerning the alleged use of excessive force by police officers in dealing with citizens of racial or ethnic minorities.
The 49ers made their stance quite clear in the immediate media wake of the event, releasing a statement which read, “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
Quite frankly, that should be the end of the story.
Kaepernick expressed his constitutional right of free speech to silently protest for a stance that he believes in.
Unfortunately, as with most statements made in the name of racial or other hot-button questions, this was thrown out the window in the eyes of many who fell back on the out-dated notions of “national pride” and “patriotism”.
In just the last two days, there has been a mountain of criticism thrown onto the gesture.
The three arguments that have most often been made against Kaepernick’s actions are: un-American, disrespectful, and negative.
First, the use of ones constitutional rights is about as American as it gets.
The founding principle of this country is that every citizen has certain rights and freedoms which are universal (“unalienable rights”).
Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression, both covered by the First Amendment to the Constitution, are the exact rights Kaepernick is taking full advantage of here.
If a fan in the stadium for the same football game chose not to stand, nothing would be made of it. A figure in the public light has the exact same freedoms.
Secondly, a national flag or national anthem should not be respected by default. A country is nothing more than artificially-drawn lines built and altered as it suits the needs of people or environment.
A flag is nothing more than a piece of cloth which is marked with certain colors and patterns which are recognized as “representing” a particular country or region.
Respect for these ideas are not earned, but instead demanded and coerced by tradition and peer pressure.
It is not disrespectful, as there is no inherent respect which comes with the flag or anthem.
Furthermore, declining to stand for the anthem, or declining to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school, is not disrespectful to the service men and women who fought and died for this country.
Those soldiers and civilians gave their lives not to protect the rights of the many, or powerful, but to protect the rights of all citizens.
The disrespect here is insinuating that these sacrifices were made to promote your personal way of life.
Lastly, this idea that what Kaepernick did was “publicity stunt” or shines a poor light on those who Kaepernick is supporting (read: minorities) is dripping in white privilege.
It is easy for current and former players to deride Kaepernick’s actions when they are not personally affected by the circumstances which the man is protesting.
I have also heard someone say that Kaepernick “should be doing positive things”, in other words, that he should be working in his community to bring about positive change.
While this is a good thought, it does not take into account that this is not a problem restricted to a single community.
It is a national issue and deserves national attention.
This man is choosing to put his public persona and, perhaps, money on the line to defend his beliefs.
That is not “negativity”.
That is making a choice and living with the consequences of that choice.
Question: was it negative when NBA star Dwyane Wade appeared on a panel for ESPN’s The Undefeated to talk about gun violence in Chicago one day before his cousin was shot and killed by a stray bullet only a few blocks away?
Of course not.
Just as Wade witnessed first-hand the violence of the inner city growing up, so too has every person in this country borne witness to the very thing that Kaepernick was protesting.
In fact, it is imperative that people in the limelight, celebrities and the like, do their part in showing solidarity with those whose voices have so long and often have been shouted down.
They should do just as Kaepernick has done, use a gesture, whether in silent protest or in grandiose discourse to bring these issues to the forefront.
Personally, I hope that Kaepernick continues to observe his constitutional rights.
More than that, I hope that people come to understand that gestures like this are not made to get the media talking about the person who made the gesture, but instead about what that gesture represents.
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Cover Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)Post Views: 1,361
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