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Coaches, athletes read children’s books focusing on Black culture

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) announced its Time Out for Black Lives initiative, which aims to inspire and educate youth, athletes, families and fans.

Time Out for Black Lives has an interactive website where coaches and student-athletes from MAAC basketball programs contribute their time and resources to read children’s books in entertaining videos, all focusing on Black culture, history, music and myths. The program comes as part of the MAAC’s United for Justice campaign that was announced over the summer.

“The Time Out for Black Lives program is something the MAAC and its member institutions have been excited about launching for quite some time as we worked with our partners in Greece and the MAAC SAAC and basketball coaches and student-athletes,” MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said in a statement from Rider University. “It’s an excellent way to give back to local schools and expand the familiarity of our basketball programs while also teaching important aspects of black history to our youth. Teaching children about these important parts of history is so important now more than ever, and the MAAC is proud to give back to its communities. We hope this program is just one of many included in the conference’s United for Justice campaign. Kudos to all involved in this project and for their support of social justice initiatives.”

All videos will be highlighted on the new site built specifically for the reading program, timeoutforblacklives.com. Posted videos will feature short biographies on each coach or student-athlete, with kid-friendly information such as the reader’s hometown, favorite book and favorite basketball player. There are also “Let’s Talk About It” resource guides to help parents/teachers start thought provoking discussions with the children viewing the videos.

The first round of videos will feature:

Rick Pitino (Iona) reads “A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis” by Matt De La Peña, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

Kevin Baggett (Rider) reads “I Got Next” by Daria Peoples-Riley.

Carmen Maciariello (Siena) reads “Obama: The Day the World Danced: a Family Heirloom” by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.

Jordan Henderson (Canisius) reads “Cool Cuts” by Mechal Renee Roe.

Melik Martin (Monmouth) reads “I Am Every Good Thing” by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James.

Heather Vulin (Manhattan) reads “Vote for Our Future” by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Micah Player.

Marc Mitchell (Saint Peter’s) reads “Henry’s Freedom Box” by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

Jada Pierce (Niagara) reads “Sing a Song: How Lift Every Voice and Sing Inspired Generations” by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Keith Mallett.

Julianna Bonilla (Marist) reads “Good Night Martin Luther King Jr.” by Adam Gamble  and Mark Jasper, illustrated by Julissa Mora.

Callie Cavanaugh (Fairfield) reads “I Am Enough” by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo.

Sajada Bonner (Quinnipiac) reads “Get Up, Stand Up” by Cedella Marley, illustrated by John Jay Cabuay.

“The Time Out For Black Lives reading initiative is a fantastic program,” Iona Men’s Basketball Coach Rick Pitino said in the statement. “I am incredibly proud of the MAAC and every member school for taking steps to make this mission actionable.”

“This basketball reading program is intended to help children develop reading, writing and thought-provoking skills while recognizing the outstanding contributions and achievements of many great Black leaders. This program is not about the actions of one, but the collective momentum of many, and Iona, as well as the MAAC, is committed to carrying that momentum forward.”

Pitino partook in a similar program while coaching in Greece and was a strong advocate for the MAAC to launch its own program. Coaches throughout the conference felt strongly about the Time Out for Black Lives program and were eager to partake.

“I’m proud to take part in Time Out for Black Lives,” Rider Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Baggett said in the statement. “Being able to intersect two very important things like reading and social justice while reaching a young audience makes the initiative one that will no doubt have a meaningful impact.”

Baggett and Pitino will be included in the first wave of released videos. Heather Vulin, head coach of the Manhattan’s women’s program and also part of the first wave of released recordings, was also an enthusiastic supporter of the program.

“I am so excited to be a part of the MAAC initiative Time Out for Black Lives,” Vulin said in the statement. “I feel it puts representation to the forefront and starts exposure and conversations on diversity, equality, and inclusion early for our children. The book I read, ‘Vote for our Future’, is a great example of the importance of using our right to vote and how voting impacts everyone’s future. I feel this program will be a wonderful resource for our local schools and an opportunity to get important conversations started. Plus, every child should be able to see someone that looks like them when they are learning about history and other important topics. We all truly gain when we embrace our differences and strengths. I am proud to be a part of the MAAC, which has continually made it a priority to use our platform to raise awareness and support for the social justice movement.”

Student-athletes will also be taking part in Time Out for Black Lives, as they have in past MAAC initiatives. Student-athletes are able to share their life experiences and lessons in a way that local students can easily connect to, as was evident in last year’s MAAC Gives Back program where basketball programs visited local elementary and high schools.

“I am excited to be a part of the MAAC’s Time Out for Black Lives reading program,” Canisius junior guard Jordan Henderson said in the statement. “This program is a fun way to help children learn about the importance of reading, and I’m honored to be one of the student-athletes chosen to help share that message.”

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