*Keifer Sykes plays professional basketball in Turkey, not Los Angeles or New York. He hasn’t yet made his NBA dream fit inside his 6-foot frame. And life off the court has been pock-marked with losses and tragedies tied to the gun violence that has riddled the streets of Chicago for a century.
The former University of Wisconsin-Green Bay star had his successes and heartbreaks documented in the award-winning 2018 documentary “Chi-Town.” Audiences saw Sykes become the first college graduate in his family’s history. they watched as he led Green Bay to a Horizon League Championship for the first time in more than a decade.
The low points, though, made the gritty film touch millions. Incarcerations, shootings and death visited his family and friends back in Chicago, and he hasn’t forgotten any of what his talents allowed him to escape. Sykes’s strong will has now turned him into a philanthropic brand, not a sneaker brand. His Free10Foundation provides mentorship to inner-city kids, holds clothing drives and Christmas parties for Chicago’s poorest, and assists children who have been victims of trauma.
The 26-year-old Sykes is wise beyond his years and skilled beyond his size. Although he is an active pro basketball player overseas, he continues to find time to give back to the community that raised him up.
Percy Crawford interviewed Keifer Sykes for Zenger News.
Zenger News: How are you doing, bro’?
Keifer Sykes: I’m living good, man. This Covid gives people a lot of reason to be negative right now, but my family is good. I was able to spend a lot of time with family. Covid made us look at the world different. We’re going through a lot of things with inequality right now. I was just happy to be home and helping my city.
I left out for a little bit right now, for three weeks. I was blessed to get a deal because a lot of people aren’t getting deals right now. But it’s a deal where I can get right back home next month. It’s unique times, but I’m blessed right now for sure.
Zenger: You’re playing ball in Turkey right now. Are they in a basketball bubble out there right now as well?
Sykes: So, right now I signed this deal to play … they’re finishing the Champions League from last year. I don’t know how familiar you are with Champions League, like soccer. They have a basketball Champions League as well overseas. When we go to this tournament, yes, we will be in a bubble-like setting. They have a bubble-type situation over here to keep us safe. It will be in Athens, Greece. I’ve never been to Greece during the couple of years I played over here. We haven’t had any Greek teams in our bracket, and I’ve always wanted to go to Greece, so it’s going to be fun to go there.
But yeah, we’re going to be in a bubble situation because as you know, with the world, this Covid thing, sports is taking a big hit. I hope it’s made a lot of us athletes realize that we have to do more and … be more diverse, and use our influence and our talent to be able to do different things in the world. If they stop sports, a lot of us don’t have a job.
Zenger: “Chi-Town” was so well put together. That’s a movie/documentary that follows your life from 17 years old through your journey through college, and ultimately chasing your NBA dream. Did you think basketball would take you this far?
Sykes: I appreciate you for supporting the film, my family and the city of Chicago. As you see in the film, I was real naïve. I wouldn’t say not confident, but when you’re living in a situation where a lot of things are happening, you’re living in violence, it’s kind of one of those things where you hope for the best but expect the worse.
I was naïve, just not knowing, and at the time I didn’t know that basketball would take me this far—basketball, that film and the impact that those two things would do for my life. I’ve just been blessed to have these opportunities, to have that film playing all over the world. I just want to use these experiences to teach the next generation to continue to hone their talents. Because, like you said, basketball can take you around the world. It can change a lot for your family.
Zenger: One part of the film that was disturbing and unfortunately your reality, when you were away at college you were hesitant to answer phone calls from a Chicago number because you assumed it was bad news on the other end.
Sykes: That was hard. Even now. Just being away and knowing what my people going through and America in general is going through. I turned down a lot of deals this summer just to stay at home. I think that comes from just growing up in poverty, growing up in inequality.
We are oppressed. It’s difficult for a lot of us. We have a lot of trauma and PTSD, and getting phone calls about my coach getting shot and my dad passing away, that trauma just builds up. A lot of our youth face that.
I knew that I was blessed with this talent to play basketball, so I was able to elude different things and circumstances. But having that film in place and me seeing … at first, I just thought this was regular life. For me and my friends, it’s the life we grew up in. but when I went to Green Bay, I was like, “Wow! This is a good life.”
And when the movie comes out, those people have never seen someone get shot, they’ve never seen anyone go to jail. I realized how much we had to do to help those less fortunate. Those that don’t have a talent. Those that won’t be able to have basketball or some type of talent as a vehicle to get them out of poverty. And that’s the reason I started my non-profit organization, The Keifer Sykes Free10Foundation.
Zenger: How important is it for you to not forget Chicago and to give back and help the youth keep their dreams alive, and not just give back but be visible and there in the flesh?
Sykes: It’s turned into something that is probably top priority for me. It’s always been my passion. My father, as you saw in the film, he helped the community a lot. He was my coach. A lot of us in the neighborhood weren’t blessed to grow up with a mother and a father. I was blessed to have my father in my life. He was real active with my basketball teams, coached a lot of my teams. And with a father figure for a lot of young boys in Chicago, that right there just made this thing of me giving back top priority and a passion of mine. I kind of found my purpose in it.
With me playing overseas the last couple of years and not being at home a lot, and getting this chance with Covid to be home for 6–7 months and actually be available and help these kids on a day-in and day-out basis, I had to set up a program to connect with these kids. And to see the impact of being available? It’s a lot of work, but it’s the work that someone has to do, and it needs to be done. I realized it needed to be done and I’m blessed to be in a position where I’m able to have kids even listen to me.
I take that very seriously. And I would hope other athletes, entrepreneurs, and just successful people would help out and make that a priority as well. It’s definitely worthwhile and meaningful.
Zenger: Tell us more about Free10Foundation.
Sykes: Yeah, The Keifer Sykes Free10Foundation. The idea was born from the film. When I went to that first film festival, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and I saw the reaction after everyone watched the film, they were saying how strong I am, and how they weren’t aware of all of the things that were going on.
I wanted to do something. I just continued to pray to God and just asked him—much is given, much expected—for him to give me the ability to fulfill everything that he wanted me to do with this instrument and vehicle that I had. Like I said, my dad always gave back, so I wanted to just bring awareness to what’s going on.
So I started this Free10Foundation. Free10 just stands for the offerings, the generosity and the service that every human being should give to the world. Kind of like our tithes. We came up with the number 10 as the numerical identity for the foundation because 10 represents our tithing.
I’m big in my faith. I’m a Christian. That’s just an equal percentage that everyone can give back to the world. Like I was just saying, I wish more successful people would give back in their own means. I just came up with 10% because if it’s $10,000 or $100, that 10% is $1,000 or $10, and even if you got $10, you could always give back that $1. I believe if we use this service to give back to the world, we can make it a better place.
We have been active for two years with the Free10Foundation, but I just received my 501(c)(3) certification this fall. For the last two or three years we have done coat drives, basketball camps—because basketball is a way for me to relate to the kids and mentor them. We have done different Christmas parties, sponsoring families that don’t have enough.
Our focus is targeting kids who are suffering from trauma, gun violence, mass incarceration. Losing a parent—people don’t understand, we have a lot of murders and gangs in Chicago, and when these black males get killed, they leave behind two or three children, and they don’t have that support from that parent, which hurts their self-esteem with going to school.
It’s a lot of different things. They have a lot of trauma. The system puts a lot of our black men and women in jail and they lose that support and it hurts their self-esteem. Life gets really hard for them and that’s the cycle that we live in when we get behind. Free10Foundation is where we step in and try to fill that void for these kids and for these families.
Zenger: That film started when you were 17 years old and it followed you up until your overseas pro career. How did you become the subject of that film at such a young age?
Sykes: It was a blessing, actually. This film crew from New York was following Oprah while she was doing her shows at the Oprah Studios in Chicago. But they love basketball in New York like they do in Chicago. Basketball in the inner city of New York is very popular. So they started to film some of the best seniors. And I just so happened to be a senior in high school that year.
At the end of the basketball season, they didn’t have the project they wanted to tell the story about Chicago and basketball that they were trying to tell. They spent time coming to my house, filming me and my family. And as we all went on to college as basketball players, you know I went to a smaller school, Green Bay. Which gave me the opportunity to play a lot as a freshman.
I was doing really well on the court, and I was also keeping in touch with them. They were seeing things that were going on with me off the court. Me losing my friend to jail that same summer when I went to college. And then that next summer losing my father. And then the next season, I flourished on the basketball court.
It just seemed like Chicago was always coming back into play, or something with some type of violence or negativity that was affecting my life or my friends and family’s life back home. With me just being personable, they just decided to make this film a documentary. They thought that was the best way to tell the story.
It was really God’s blessing. He wanted this story to be told through me. To say that we have great players from Chicago like Anthony Davis who is in the Western Conference Finals right now. Me and him were in the same grade. We had Jabari Parker, we had Derrick Rose. As far as Chicago, Kevin Garnett, Isiah Thomas—we had plenty of players in terms of basketball, but the movie, “Chi-Town,” they wanted to tell this story through me, and I haven’t played an official NBA game yet.
I just felt like, God chose me to tell this story. I will continue to pray that I fulfill everything that he wants me to do with this film.
Zenger: You were called the James Harden of China. You can obviously play your ass off. You are now in Turkey hooping. You have been all over the world, how does basketball differ all over the world, yet bring people together the same way everywhere it’s played?
Sykes: I think basketball, as you can see now, is becoming one of the more popular sports. It used to be football. Just with the times we’re going through with social injustice and things like that, basketball is a way for us to express ourselves creatively in a unique way, more than any other sport. We’re just more visible. We don’t wear helmets and shoulder pads. It’s just how it’s structured.
Our game is continuing to flourish. We are able to make more money but also acquire more endorsements and be creative in tackling different problems in the world while trying to find a solution. With basketball being a majority African-American-dominated sport, we have a lot of impact on the culture. Our style of play, how we dress, the way we carry ourselves and our attitudes.
All that is expressed in the game of basketball which has given us opportunities to go across the world, and as African Americans we can shine no matter what the culture is, no matter what country or city that you’re playing in. I try to tell the youth and other athletes that we have to continue to hone our talents and continue to be creative and find ways to change the world with this influence that we have. Basketball allows us to express and uplift different communities and change and impact the world.
Zenger: I love your story. Continue to do what you have been doing and I wish you the best, man. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Sykes: I just want to say thank you, man. I appreciate your patience. I hope everything is getting better with the hurricanes that hit you all, the wildfires out in L.A. and just bless all the people.
(Edited by David Martosko.)
The post Smallish NBA Dreamer Has European Career but Giant Impact on Chicago’s Forgotten Communities appeared first on Zenger News.
‘The Craft: Legacy’ Stars Lovie Simone & Gideon Adlon on Witchcraft and Womanhood
*“The Craft: Legacy” introduces a new coven of witches this Halloween season.
Blumhouse productions expands the world of the cult 1996 hit “The Craft” with a new foursome of aspiring teenage witches coming into their power.
Much like in the original, a new girl arrives in town – Lily (Cailee Spaeny, “Pacfic Rim”) – that’s spotted by three girls – Frankie (Gideon Adlon,) Tabby (Lovie Simone, “Greenleaf”) and Lourdes (Zoey Luna) – who recruit her to be the fourth in their coven of witches.
This continuation of the original has moments that will remind you of the O.G. and a surprising plot twist, but a key difference is this version focuses more on the sisterhood of connecting through magic. Until it takes a turn…
The production consulted with real-life witches who were on set during filming, in order to protect the actors from summoning the wrong spirits. Two of the film’s stars, Lovie Simone and Gideon Adlon, chatted with EURweb correspondent Jill Munroe about how their experience on set and how they grew together like an actual coven.
Simone says that she was on her way to witchcraft all of her life.
Lovie Simone: I think witchcraft is more accountable and more personal. More you do the work.
Jill: Witchcraft within the Black community is something that has been shunned. What was your relationship like with magic before this film, and has it changed after being in it?
Lovie: I was definitely on my way to witchcraft. My whole life I think. Just with my views on Christianity, I knew that just couldn’t be it. Being a Black Baptist growing up, I was strict with everything. It was so restricting to my life and growth, I said ok, there has to be some other way. So I started looking for other reasons and why. And then I started falling in love with crystals and making teas. So I think, it just gives it a balance. You can have the father and the mother in the home.
Simone has several projects on the horizon including STARZ “Power Boook III: Raising Kanan.”
Sharing similar vibes, Simone’s co-star Gideon Adlon said magic has been in her life since the age of 6 when she went to visit her first psychic. Adlon said being on set was life changing.
“I was going through a very transitional period in my life when I went to Toronto to book this. And just learning about magic and working with real witches, and honing in that female power. Of being a woman… it was just a nourishing experience, and I’ll forever be thankful.”
Written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones, the film also stars Nicholas Galitzine, Michelle Monaghan and David Duchovny. “The Craft: Legacy” is available on demand from October 28 om Amazon Prime.
Cardi B Claps Back at Racist Haters to Her Birkin Collection: ‘Y’all Don’t Do This to White Celebrities’
*Cardi B has clapped back at racists saying Hermés Birkin bags “lost their value” because Black female rappers wear them.
Cardi’s response is to a social media post about how rappers make the pricy handbags less “exclusive.” Hermés Birkin bags typically range anywhere from $12,000 to $200,000.
“I’ve been seeing this tweet right. It had me and it had other female rappers on it. They were talking about if we could get Birkins from the Hermés store and they [were] also saying how we depreciate the value of a Hermés Birkin bag. I find that really interesting because, first thing first, I definitely could get a bag. Actually, I got four bags today from the Hermés store,” the 28-year-old hip-hop star said in a video shared on Instagram.
Check out Cardi’s profane and is NSFW video below.
The “WAP” rapper recently shared a glimpse of her Hermès handbag collection — 23 Birkin bags and counting… with rare and one-of-a-kind designs, like camouflage, glitter and a paisley-print pattern, per PEOPLE. Check out her post below.
In the comments, Cardi B’s estranged husband Offset wrote, “I’m Responsible for 15 of them.”
View this post on Instagram
Cardi explained in her IG post on Oct. 25 that folks should stop questioning how and why Black women can “get a bag from the Hermés store” because “y’all don’t do this to these white celebrities,” she said.
“So why is it that y’all gotta be asking us? What the f—? It just makes you want to brag like, ‘Bitch do you know who the f— you’re talking to?’ But no, I’m not even going to take it there,” Cardi B added.
“Another thing is that they’re saying we’re depreciating the value,” she contonued. “Actually, we add value because when we mention brands in hip-hop, s— go up.”
She then referenced her hit single “Bodak Yellow,” which mentions designer Christian Louboutin and the song “I Like It Like That” which mentions Balenciaga.
“When ‘Bodak Yellow’ came out you could actually Google that their sales went up 1000+%,” said Cardi. And when it comes to the Balenciaga sales spike, Cardi added…”That s— went up too and that’s why they worked with me this year. Like hip-hop, we start trends,” she explaiined. “When y’all say that we devalue s—, no we actually add value.”
Bubba Wallace Refuses Trump Apology Demand in Root Insurance TV Spot [WATCH]
*NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace stars in a powerful and provocative new spot from Root Insurance, in which he addresses Donald Trump’s demand that he apologize over the noose controversial.
Back in June, NASCAR notified Wallace that a noose was found hanging in his garage stall at the Talladega Superspeedway.
After an investigation into the incident, the FBI declined to file any hate crime federal charges.
According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, the noose had been in the garage since last fall, per USA Today.
Wallace “was not the target of a hate crime,” NASCAR said in a statement.
“There is no place in our sport for this type of racism and hatred,” said NASCAR President Steve Phelps in a press call with media at the time. “It’s not who we are as a sport.”
President Trump called the incident a “hoax” and demanded Bubba apologize for it.
“Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!,” Trump tweeted.
In the Root commercial, Bubba walks through a crowd of reporters who ask him for the apology and he staunchly refuses.
Scroll up and watch the ad via the YouTube player above.
According to a press release, Root partnered with Wallace (who recently signed with the newly formed Michael Jordan racing team) and Tool of North America with director Wesley Walker as creative lead, to tell his story and share his conviction for unapologetic societal change.
“Root Insurance is doing what is right and making insurance more fair, and I will be proud to drive a car with their colors next season,” said Wallace. “I stand firmly with the goal of eliminating bias from insurance, and I truly believe we can work together to help make the world a better place.”
“Getting to know Bubba Wallace and what he stands for made this partnership one that we couldn’t pass up,” said Alex Timm, Root Co-Founder and CEO. “He is dedicated to standing up for what is right, even when it involves facing adversity. Root was created to make car insurance more fair, standing up against the established industry that priced more on demographics than driving behavior. We are proud to support Bubba Wallace.”
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