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Truthdigger of the Week: Baron Davis

Truthdig tips its hat this week to Baron Davis, not just because he played a crucial role in steering the Golden State Warriors to their first NBA playoff victory in 16 years, but, more important, because he has used his celebrity status to draw attention to key issues such as the underrepresentation of African-Americans at top-notch universities. Davis’ concern about declining black enrollment at his alma mater, UCLA, led him to co-found the “We Should Not Be the Only Ones” campaign with fellow UCLA alum and Chicago Bears linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. The mission of the “movement,” as Davis and Ayanbadejo describe it on their site, is “to promote the adequate representation of California’s diverse population at one of the state’s premier universities — UCLA.”

Specifically, the two athletes are pushing for UCLA to reach out to African-American high school students, cultivate their academic talents and recruit them for reasons other than their athletic prowess. The university’s 2007 enrollment figures were alarming. According to the Los Angeles Times’ J.A. Adande, “This year’s UCLA freshman class had fewer than 100 African-Americans — the lowest number in 30 years — among the 4,700 new students.” Adande notes that while 60 percent of the UCLA basketball team is black, only 3 percent of the student body is, which sends the message, “intentionally or not … that African-Americans are welcome on the court but not in the classroom.”

Davis’ investment in this issue is clearly not for show. In fact, his campaign took center stage on April 29, the same day the Warriors shut down the Los Angeles Lakers. Adande reports that Davis spent part of the day meeting with UCLA’s chancellor and emphasized “We Should Not Be the Only Ones” in his pregame interview. After growing up in a rough part of L.A., winning a scholarship at Santa Monica’s elite Crossroads School (actress Kate Hudson was one of his high school classmates) and working his way through ups-and-downs playing in college and the NBA, Davis knows all too well about the challenges that black students (and athletes) encounter in their young lives. His career has been threatened by phases of lackluster performance, injuries and personality clashes with coaches and teammates. But from the look of it now, this is Baron Davis’ moment to seize.

More links:

Click here for the San Jose Mercury News’ “Hollywood story” of Davis’ life.

Baron Davis has his own site as well, which provides information about his other outreach work in the black community, such as a fundraising campaign following Hurricane Katrina.

Read J.A. Adande’s L.A. Times story here. (registration wall)

Click on this link to see CBS 13’s recent report about the University of California system and minorities.

UCLA’s enrollment issues were the topic of this NPR report from last July.

UCLA students are clearly aware that enrollment figures are a concern — in fact, they were onto the problem two years ago, as evidenced by this Daily Bruin article.

Finally, follow this link for information about the UCLA Black Alumni Association.

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