Project Swish Chicago, led by McKinley Nelson, recently celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with special guest NBA player Jabari Parker. The event, sponsored by Foot Locker Chicago, gave back to Chi youth to teach them importance of mental health wellness.
News outlets Fox 32, WGN, and Telemundo Chicago, were in attendance to document the “MLK Day of Impact.” There were also barbers on set to hand out haircuts and a provided yoga session to get everyone in the right state of mind.
Nelson and Parker headlined the event and went in-depth on the importance of upkeeping mental health while commemorating the legacy of Dr. King.
Parker spoke on how important Dr. King was to him. “I love Martin Luther King because Martin didn’t go for equity, he went for equality because that’s what everybody could strive for. When we have equality we can set the example and be bigger by asking for a level playing field and not asking for a handout.” Reiterating his point, he said, “I love Martin and what he stood for because he had every excuse to be one-sided, but he paved the way, not only for Black people but, for Latinos, Jews, and all types of people.”
Parker also talked about how hard it was for him to not “take the easy way out,” like the rest of his peers when he attended Simeon High School. “Everything around us is instant. Our phones are instant, our TV is instant, whatever; it’s easily accessible, and that along with money. People can do a lot of things that are illegal and unjustifiable to make an income, so a lot of my peers went that way.
“I had a trying time in my life because I didn’t know if basketball would be my future,” Parker said. “I broke my foot, and my only way out was to get a scholarship. So, I had a temptation to make some money by selling some weed but, I reflected and stayed true to myself because I knew basketball was all I wanted to do.”
The four-time state champion, back in high school, also spoke on the importance of taking pressure off yourself, especially with those he could relate to the most–basketball players.
“The pressure comes from having expectations. Have no expectations. Simply know that whatever you’re doing is going to be added on. The smallest percentage is eventually going to become more, so just add that one percent over and over. Just know that you have to be content with the baby steps.”
Mental health is everything, and it’s way harder to care for than physical health because when your mind isn’t working, your body can’t either. So, while this may be easy to say because it is, put your mental health first, and even if you don’t know how to openly and verbally express yourself just yet, take the baby steps and try, and maybe it will become easier.
By Jeremiah Griffith, Junior, Noble Academy