The Double-A, Reprised!

It’s time to Break It Down!

There are many current events that vied for todays post.  Pope Benedict transitions to, His Holiness Benedict XVI, Emeritus Pope at the end of tomorrow, lacking some unforseen miracle, the next round of budget malaise, otherwise known as, The Sequester, begins Friday, conservatives are still in apoplexy over First Lady, Michelle Obama, announcing Argo’s Oscar, in South Africa, another Oscar (Pistorius) finds himself embroiled in controversy after killing his girlfriend…(Reeva Steenkamp) on Valentine’s Day, and another Black History Month comes to a close tomorrow.  Alas, I opted for none of the above.

Instead, I chose to take a walk down memory lane.  Five years ago today I wrote a post about the venerable and vaunted Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Tournament.  At the time the event was in its third year in Charlotte.  In honor of that post, and in recognition of the fact that the CIAA, Time Warner Arena (Formerly Bobcats’ Arena), and the Charlotte community are doing it again this week, I am reprising that edition. 

The Conference, which celebrated a century of great basketball last year also selected a new Commissioner in 2012; Ms. Jacqie Carpenter.  The conference’s first female Commissioner, was lured from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), where she held down a number of responsible positions, including head of the Men’s NCAA Division I Championship.

The following information first appeared, as it does below, in the February 27, 2008 edition of “Break It Down!”          

Over the course of six months of blogging, I have come to accept the inescapable certainty of natural law. To wit, during holidays, there will be more recreating than reading. As a result, I have adopted a Prime Directive similar to that of James Tiberius Kirk, intrepid Captain of the USS Enterprise. My General Order #1 is, to take no action to interfere with the normal affairs of the readership.

I have it on good authority that this week, the attention, and schedule of many of the readers of this periodical will be focused on the 63rd edition of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Basketball Tournament. Now I can hear some saying what is that? Others are bemusedly thinking that is no holiday. And some are simply waiting for me to…Break It Down!

Well for starters, I will stipulate that for the next five weeks, Charlotte will be transformed into the center of the CBU, College Basketball Universe. The metamorphosis began on Monday, February 25th when the CIAA Women’s Tournament kicked-off at Bobcat’s Arena in Charlotte. The basketball and festivities, and there are a lot of both, conclude on Saturday, March 1st, with the crowning of both the 2008 Men’s, and Women’s Tournament Champions.

The Double-A, as the event is affectionately called, is not a battery, nor a shoe size. Neither is it really a holiday; it is actually a holi-week! I will address that later, in greater detail.

In less than two weeks after the CIAA packs it in, the vaunted Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament will take up residence at Bobcat’s Arena, as Charlotte hosts the Conference’s 55th Tournament, March 13th – 16th. Finally, after another much needed pause, the third in the trio of collegiate basketball sporting events, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Eastern Regional Basketball Tournament takes center stage, also at Bobcat’s Arena, March 27th and 29th.

Most people, sports fans or not, are familiar with the NCAA Tournament. The phrase, The Road To The Final Four, has been oft repeated for many years. It’s a National phenomenon. The ACC Tournament now includes teams from Boston to Miami, and is also a widely popular brand, know throughout the Country. Fewer people know about the CIAA. But that does not diminish its appeal, success, or venerable history.

While many may find it surprising, the Double-A is older than the ACC Tournament. In fact, the Conference is much older than the ACC, having been established in 1912. The ACC was formed in 1953. The CIAA Tournament also boasts a level of success on par with its better known, younger counterpart. For the third year in a row, the event has sold out Bobcats Arena months in advance. Like the ACC, there are no general ticket sales. Tickets are allocated to member Institutions (the ten member colleges and universities), and sold through them.

The 2007 CIAA Tournament entertained 165,000 fans and patrons at its various events. To be sure, the CIAA is not just a basketball tournament. Its part reunion, part party, part history lesson, and all fun! The Conference has already reached an accord for a three-year extension, ensuring that Charlotte will host the event through 2011.

The Tournament features great men’s and women’s basketball. Several of the CIAA’s best have left, and continue to leave, their mark on the NBA. Vernon Earl “The Pearl” Monroe (Winston-Salem State University/Baltimore Bullets & New York Knicks), Alvin “Al” Attles (NC A&T State University/Philadelphia-San Francisco Warriors), Sam Jones (North Carolina Central University/Boston Celtics), Derrick “Rick” Mahorn (Hampton University/Detroit Pistons), Charles Oakley (Virginia Union University/New York Knicks), Ben Wallace (Virginia Union University/Detroit Pistons & Cleveland Cavaliers), Terry Davis (Virginia Union University/Dallas Mavericks), Ronald “Flip” Murray (Shaw University/Detroit Pistons), and Darrell Armstrong (Fayetteville State University/Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, & Indiana Pacers) are all CIAA alumni.

There are currently ten member schools in the CIAA. Two more are scheduled to join, Lincoln University (Pennsylvania), and Chowan University (Murfreesboro, NC), for football only. The ranks currently include public and private colleges and universities in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland:

Member schools

Eastern Division

Bowie State University Elizabeth City State University Saint Paul’s College Virginia State University Virginia Union University

Western Division

Fayetteville State University Johnson C. Smith University Livingstone College Saint Augustine’s College Shaw University

Bowie State University

Location – Bowie, Maryland

Founded – 1865 Affiliation – Public Enrollment – 5,454

Nickname – Bulldogs

Varsity Sports – 11 Joined – 1979

Elizabeth City State University

Location – Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Founded – 1891 Affiliation – Public

Enrollment – 3,025 Nickname – Vikings

Varsity Sports – 10

Joined – 1957

Fayetteville State University

Location – Fayetteville, North Carolina

Founded – 1867 Affiliation – Public Enrollment – 6,085

Nickname – Broncos

Varsity Sports – 10 Joined – 1954

Johnson C. Smith University

Location – Charlotte, North Carolina

Founded – 1867 Affiliation – Private/Non-sectarian

Enrollment – 2,500

Nickname – Golden Bulls

Varsity Sports – 13 Joined – 1926

Livingstone College

Location – Salisbury, North Carolina

Founded – 1879 Affiliation – Private/African Methodist Episcopal Zion

Enrollment – 1,100

Nickname – Blue Bears

Varsity – 11

Joined – 1931

St. Augustine’s College

Location – Raleigh, North Carolina

Founded – 1867

Affiliation – Private/Episcopal

Enrollment – 1,700

Nickname – Falcons Varsity Sports – 14

Joined – 1933

Saint Paul’s College

Location – Lawrenceville, Virginia

Founded – 1888 Affiliation – Private/Episcopal

Enrollment – 750 Nickname – Tigers Varsity Sports – 14 Joined – 1923

Shaw UniversityLocation – Raleigh, North Carolina

Founded – 1865

Affiliation – Private/Baptist

Enrollment – 2,500

Nickname – Bears Varsity Sports – 13

Joined – 1912

Virginia State University

Location – Petersburg, Virginia

Founded – 1882

Affiliation – Public Enrollment – 4,300

Nickname – Trojans

Varsity Sports – 14 Joined – 1920

Virginia Union University

Location – Richmond, Virginia

Founded – 1865

Affiliation – Private/Baptist

Enrollment – 1,525

Nickname – Panthers Varsity Sports – 12

Joined – 1912

If you have never attended the Double-A, and have the opportunity, by all means do so. Just be advised, this is not your father’s Oldsmo…, I mean tournament. The activity is non-stop, and multi-dimensional. There are multiple venues, and it is common to see folks engaged in milling about, visiting, viewing exhibits, eating, watching people and a host of other endeavors…during games.

By the same token, there are staunch fans of the game who wouldn’t think of missing the action on the court. Fortunately for them, there is a virtual panoramic parade of activity going on inside the arena, ranging from Mr. CIAA, to cheerleaders of teams that have been eliminated, haven’t played yet, or just not playing at the time, but who are committed to providing their own fashion show.

As an alumnus of a CIAA constituent member institution, I am intensely interested because I have a stake in the outcome…no matter how much of a long shot it is. But I have found the event to be enjoyable and entertaining on its face. I am certain I would feel this way even were I not the proud owner of a degree from one of the schools…with no outstanding college loans.

The fun is just getting started. Catch it if you can. I am out; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.comor A new post is published each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Followin the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at;enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”  Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

Essie Mae Washington-Williams: Scion of a Contradictory Icon

It’s time to Break It Down!

Essie Mae Washington-Williams is not a household name; she is not someone with whom most Americans are familiar.  That she died early this month probably resulted in far more attention than she would have desired.  For 78 of her 87 years, Mrs. Williams lived, in a sense, a shadowy existence.  Nothing really sinister; just by choice mostly, declining to reveal in totality, the full and complete dimensions of her famous heritage and lineage.

In December, 2003, Mrs. Williams decided to share, by entering into the public domain, a deeply personal secret of more than seven decades.Back home, in her native South Carolina, she went on record, telling an assembly of more than 250 reporters that she was the daughter of the legendary and recently deceased, Senator Strom Thurmond, South Carolina.

The history, accomplishments, and overarching legacy of Strom Thurman fill a virtual palette with factoids, many of them of the simply amazing variety.The list includes, but is not limited to:

·        He lived to be100 years old

·        He served 40years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves

·        He attained the rank of Major General (two stars)

·        He served inWorld War II and the Normandy Campaign

·        He was awarded the Legion of Merit (twice)

·        He was awarded theBronze Star with valor

·        He was awarded the Purple Heart

·        He was awarded the World War II Victory Medal

·        He was awardedEuropean-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal

·        He was awarded the Order of the Crown

·        He was awarded the Croix de Guerre (FrenchCross of War)

·        He served as the103rd Governor of South Carolina

·        He served as theU.S. Senator from South Carolinafor 48 years

·        He served asPresident Pro Tempore of the United States Senate for 6 years

·        He was the 1stPresident Pro Tempore Emeritus of the United States Senate; a  capacity he held for 2 years

·        He was the onlySenator to reach age 100 while still in office

·        He was the longest serving Dean of the U.S. Senate (14 years)

The Senator’s impressive resume of service and achievement aside, Thurmond was probably best known for his strident ideological posture.  To put it bluntly, Mr. Thurmond was an avowed segregationist for much of his enduring political career.  He ran for Presidentin 1948 as a member of the States Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat).  He would go on to represent the State of South Carolina as a Senator, first as a Democrat beginning in 1954, then from 1964, as a RepublicanSenator Thurmond switchedParties because of his opposition to what he perceived as the liberalism of theDemocratic Party, its support for civil rights, and his support for the conservatism of Republican Presidential candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater.

Due to his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957, he conducted the longest filibuster ever by a lone Senator, 24 hours, 18 minutes, nonstop.  He would later oppose the civil rights legislation of 1964 and 1965.  TheSenator always insisted he was never a racist, but opposed excessive federal authority.  He was quoted saying that:

All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement.”

He attributed the movement for integration to Communist agitators.This would prove to be an interesting juxtaposition, for several reasons.  Starting in the 70’s, he moderated his position on race, yet, he continued defending his early segregationist campaigns on the basis of states’ rights in the context of Southern society at the time.  In other words, he never fully renounced his earlier viewpoints.

With that, we come back full-circle, to Essie Mae.  Six months after Thurmond’sdeath in 2003, it was revealed that at age 22, he had fathered a mixed-race daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, with his family’s maid, Carrie Butler, a 15-year-old black girl. Although Thurmond never publicly acknowledged Essie Mae, he paid for her education at a historically black college and passed other money to her for some time. His children by his marriage eventually acknowledged her.

So it is, as we traverse the second decade of the 21st Century, we are reminded in a post-mortem kind of way, that for all of Senator Thurmond’sspoken commitment to the tenets of separation and segregation; a sort of American Apartheid, in his personal, though down-low life, he fully embraced the principles of interracial harmony and mutual satisfaction (if you know what I mean).

In his own, totally irrational and indefensible way, the Senator undoubtedly rationalized he was doing an honorable thing.After all, he provided the wherewithal for his eldest child to attend college.  What more could she ask?  What more could anyone expect…of a man in his position?

On the other hand, Essie Mae assumed the persona of a fatherless child.  While her siblings enjoyed the complete array of rights and privileges accorded to the children of a Senator, step-sister (in every sense of the term) Essie Mae was neither seen, nor heard.  In 2005 she published a book she wrote with William Stadiem; Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond, in which she explored among other things the various aspects of her dislocation, based upon her mixed-heritage.  It was nominated for a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

While Mrs. Washington-Williams’ story in not unique in the Americantapestry, it is truly sad.  I am reminded of the Thomas JeffersonSally Hemings saga; yet another tale of American irony.

In Psalms 90:10 (NRSV), we are told:

The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they soon gone, and we fly away.”

Mrs. Washington spent, for all intents and purposes, a lifetime shrouded in humiliating secrecy, when she had done nothing wrong.  She had merely had the misfortune to born in an era when the circumstances of her birth were not validated by the society in which she lived.  She suffered the additional indignity of knowing that everything the father who sired her stood for was antithetical to inclusion and full participation in the broader world.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.comor A new post is published each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Followin the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at;enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”  Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

“The State of the Union: The President, The Loyal Opposition, and The Other Loyal Opposition!”

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last night, President Obama delivered his 5th State of the Union Address; the 1st of his second term.  The moment was pregnant with pomp, pageantry, and historical significance.

Whenever the President takes the stage, steps to the podium, or takes the mic, there are elements of pomp and pageantry.  That this President won election in the first place; secured a second term, and then delivered his 5th address defining the status of our nation is a sequence of events of such momentous historic significance that any and all of the elements would have been considered improbable 5 years ago.  Moreover, in the face of high unemployment and an incredibly motivated opposition, President Obama’s re-election was considered unlikely as recently as a year ago.  So, historic; you bet!

But the history that leapt out at me does not involve President Obama.  It does not apply to the specific tenets raised during the President’s speech, or to Mrs. Obama’s guests.  It doesn’t even apply to former Rocker Ted Nugent attending the function.  Nugent, as you may recall, asserted last summer that if President Obama were re-elected, he (Nugent) would be dead or in jail by that time next year.  Mr. Nugent is the invited guest of Rep. Steve Stockman, Texas.

It is customary for the Republican Party to provide a counterpoint response whenever the Presidentmakes a formal speech.  Last night, the Republican Party inadvertently paid President Obama the ultimate compliment.  Oh, they will never concede the point, or call it that; but the fact of the matter is, by choosing to provide, instead of the traditional Republican Response, two responses, the GOP made several statements, including:

  • They conceded the Republican Party is substantially split, and does not trust its leadership to represent “the Party as a whole.”
  • They demonstrated that the Tea Party Movement (which both of the GOP candidate respondents represented) is apparently split among itself.
  • Their actions showed the President’s convincing win in November among numerous voting blocs, including, women, people of color, Latinos, Asians, and youth, has Republicans shaken to the core.
  • Their reaction served as an admission that the President’s articulation of values,   e.g., investing to grow and strengthen the middle class, a fair tax     system, an affordable and excellent education, and a belief that we are most prosperous when we pursue policies that demonstrate we are all in it together was a winner; their own tactics and designs, not so much.
  • Big ups, Mr. President!

On one hand, in deciding to offer up both Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul, junior Senators from Florida and Kentucky, respectively, as the voices of the loyal, but apparently split opposition, the Republican tag team gave the GOP twice the usual array of options to effectively respond to the President.  In as much as both men have shown early indications of being interested in positioning themselves as potential candidates for President in 2016, their responses served as preliminary auditions for the GOP top spot.

Of course alternately, the whole thing reminded of one of the Newhart episodes that featured, Larry, his brother Darryl…and his other brother Darryl.  Seriously funny stuff; but I digress.  That’s about all there is to say about, “The State of the Union:The President, The Loyal Opposition, and The Other Loyal Opposition!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.comor A new post is published each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Followin the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at;enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”  Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

Butt, Seriously!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Bang-gate?  Last month’s news!  Skeetgate?  So last week!

Yes, we have had nearly a month to become accustomed to the First Lady’s new Birthday-do hair style.  While at least one style maven, Karl Lagerfeld, panned FLOTUS’ forehead covering locks, the simple truth is, POTUS deemed the coiffure a critical success; enough said!

Moreover, now that the Obama Administration has released an official photograph of the Presidentwielding his weapon,” the tenor of that conversation has shifted from one of disbelief that POTUS had ever touched a firearm to one of; his actions are just pandering to the gun lobby.  Of course, the accompanying footnote is, the Rightwill simply never support, what in their view is, his devious plan to separate law abiding American citizens from their Constitutionally given right to possess any gun that is not officially classified as an automatic weapon.  Whatever; like I said, old news!

The next gem of mindless pablum to masquerade as a rant against the First Family has been directed atFLOTUS.  It’s not new, but has resurfaced in the last couple of days.  Most Americans know Mrs. Obama has driven an initiative to promote low-calorie school lunches; it’s known as the “Let’s Move”Campaign.  There is a segment of the populace that resisted Mrs. Obama’sefforts from the outset.  Those folks routinely accused Michelle of trying to foster a Nanny State.  Coincidentally, the same crowd consistently also regularly affixes the Nanny State label to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his efforts to ban the sale, in New York City, of sugary drinks larger than 16ounces.

Bob Grisham, an Alabama high school football coach, made disparaging remarks about the First Lady in a January 27th class.  He referred to “her big butt,” while also flaying “queers” in the same rant.  Coach Grisham’s comments were recorded by a student in the class.  On Monday, he was suspended without pay for10 days for his rant; roughly 90 seconds of which were caught on tape:(  The coach has also been required to attend sensitivity training, and cannot teach his psychology class for the remainder of the semester.

As noted earlier, this tack has been employed before.  Shock jock, Rush Limbaughrepeatedly referred to FLOTUS as Michelle “My Butt”Obama (;Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, issued an apology after having been overhead loudly referring to Mrs. Obama’slarge posterior:” ( It should be noted, Coach Grisham has also said he misspoke; although he did so in an odd way.  He defended his remarks, telling the TimesDaily that he “Misspoke in a debate-style discussion about the state of the country.“  He added, “I have no hatred toward anyone or any group.People that know my heart, they know that.”

Without getting too far down in the weeds concerning this matter, it is worth mentioning that, despite his censure, the reaction to Coach Grisham and his comments have been mixed.  The LGBT community has sounded a tone of outrage, with advocacy groups calling for his firing.  But he also has defenders.

A student in the high school said the matter had been blown out of proportion, and that the coach was joking.One school board member voted against the suspension, which was proposed by the Superintendent.  Upon follow-up, the board member indicated that he supported 5 days, but thought10 days was too severe.

For the purposes of this post, the reference to Mrs. Obama’s derriere is the focus.  However, left to my own devices, I surmise that Coach Grisham’s suspension, and sensitivity training, for the most part, were applied as an official organization response to the coach’s derogatory comments about gays.  For the record, I am fine with that.

However, as for the apparent fixation with Mrs. Obama’s ample curves, evidenced by, Coach Grisham, Representative Sensenbrenner, Mr. Limbaugh, and a varied assortment of other Right Wingers, I am reminded of one of my favorite and most compelling Natural Laws: Haters gotta hate; it’s what they do“Butt,Seriously!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.comor A new post is published each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Followin the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at;enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.”  Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below: