However, taking the concept of the idea behind the tagline in the Catherine Ryan Hyde book and hit movie, “Pay It Forward,” is another matter.
Taylor and Porcher took a “simple idea” in 2003 and created the Ford Detroit Football Classic – a football game played in Detroit between two Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Now, four years later, the game is making a “big difference.”
On Saturday, Sept. 2, the fourth annual Ford Detroit Football Classic will be held at Ford Field, as Florida A&M University (FAMU) and Delaware State University square off at 1 p.m.
The game is, sort of, like another “party” happening over the Labor Day weekend. The “Battle of the Bands” at half-time also will generate a buzz for those in attendance, as will the live post-game concert with Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.
The game is only part of the mix, however. Taylor and Porcher have a goal outside the entertainment aspect of the game: They are attempting to enlighten Detroit area students that Historically Black Colleges and Universities are a viable option when they graduate from high school.
“The game is way more than just a football game,” Taylor said. “What we pay (the two teams) makes a huge impact on their school program. We also give away scholarships to both of the schools with money raised from the charity gala.”
The Salute to Scholarship Charity Gala is held at Seldom Blues on Friday, the night before the game. Taylor and Porcher, who are partners in the Southern Hospitality Restaurant Group, which operates Seldom Blues, help to raise money for scholarships to be given to the two schools playing in the Detroit Football Classic.
There is another aspect, too. Taylor and Porcher are making an attempt to make the Ford Detroit Football Classic a part of Detroit’s culture, an annual event that is a staple in the Motor City and a major attraction in the Midwest.
“The game has a major economic impact on the city, especially when you’re getting anywhere between 40,000 and 60,000 people,” Taylor said. “It brings money to the hotels, restaurants and stores in the city.
“We have to keep doing things in the city, but we (also) have to get major support from the community. This (game) should be a part of Detroit’s history, a part of Detroit’s richness. We can’t be a big city until we get out and support things like the Ford Detroit Football Classic, the Detroit International Jazz Festival and things like that.”
In the movie “Pay It Forward,” starring Haley Joel Osment, Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, a young student (Osment) is challenged, along with his classmates, by the school’s social studies teacher (Spacey) to think of something that will change the world. It is then their assignment to put the plan into action.
As the film moves along, the lad conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward — repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people.
Naturally, over the course of the movie, the idea of “paying it forward” catches on and more than a few lives are touched by the unique concept. Of course, Hollywood is Hollywood, and the ending to the movie has a strange, unkind twist.
Movies imitate life and Taylor’s and Porcher’s plan also could have an unkind twist.
Since a near sellout in the 2003 Ford Detroit Football Classic, attendance in the 2004 and 2005 games were down. So, Taylor and Porcher are hoping FAMU, which played in the first Classic, helps to rebuild the original fan base.
There is another factor weighing in this matter as well.
If supporters opposing affirmative action have their way in November’s election, life as we know it will change drastically.
“With (some people) fighting to take away affirmative action, a lot of our kids may only be able to go to Black colleges,” said WXYZ-Channel 7 news anchor Carolyn Clifford, who is Taylor’s wife. “It’s important to learn about our history and to learn there are alternatives, especially with U of M fighting so hard to get rid of affirmative action. If it goes away, a lot of kids in the city of Detroit will be in trouble.”
Affirmative action, for sure, has played a factor in minorities making gains since the 1960s. Take affirmative action away in a society that has yet to create a level playing field and there are a lot of Detroit area students looking at Plan B in terms of colleges and universities they can attend.
Some still will be able to go to Michigan and Michigan State. Others will even receive scholarships to Harvard, Northwestern, Stanford and MIT.
Of course, some will be stuck between a rock and hard place. Either their grades and national test scores will be borderline or they (and their families) will lack the funds to pay for school. The scholarship money won’t be there; demand will outweigh availability.
All things considered, Taylor’s and Porcher’s attempt to bring attention to HBCUs is not a reach.
For one, scholarships aimed at African Americans, like the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, are available. Second, Porcher, the former Detroit Lions star, graduated from an HBCU school, South Carolina State. So did Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who graduated from FAMU.
“We have a lot of great people in this community who have graduated from a Historic Black College,” Taylor said.
For the most part, timing is everything.
More than a few students wait until the last minute to look into a college education. By then, a lot of doors have been closed to them. Right now, the windows of opportunity are open.
In fact, on Friday, Sept. 1, the day before the game, representatives from Delaware State and FAMU will be in town for the Ford Detroit Football Classic. The reps will be available to answer questions at the Detroit Marriott.
This is a golden opportunity for Detroit area students and their families. So, here’s a simple idea that can make a big difference: Attend the game, enjoy the half-time show, check out Frankie Beverly and Maze, and become enlightened to the Black college experience.
Afterwards, “Pay It Forward.”
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