Athletes United for Peace - Doug Harris Media

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Athletes United for Peace

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As I've slowly entered into Life’s Third Age as described by Dr. Ken Dychtwald, I felt compelled to reflect back on one of the most memorable working experiences that anyone could ever imagine through this visual archive.  

When I became involved with Athletes United for Peace's nonprofit organization in 1990, I had no conceivable idea of what type of impact I would have on so many people. The organization's Founder Phil Shinnick, Executive Director Guy Benjamin and President David Meggyesy apparently saw something in me that I hadn't fully realized, and that was my ability to make things happen by exhibiting leadership and following through with a vision.

That vision was to provide services and opportunities for under-privileged young people in the Bay Area communities of Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond who were seeking to make a better way in life. Through this wonderful experience, I learned that there are countless rewards to helping those less fortunate, and nothing is impossible.  

The biggest joy I get in Life's Third Age is when people come up to me on the streets and share their memories of AUP, and profusely thank me for the impact that the different programs and activies had on their lives.  An for that, I'll forever be thankful for the many opportunities this great organization has afforded as a peace activist, community advocate, nonprofit administrator and documentary filmmaker.
NCAA Exhibition Team
Having been a basketball player on several different levels over the years, I always had aspirations of one day becoming a college coach.  So after taking my father's advice about getting involved in some way with AUP, I wrote a proposal to executive director Guy Benjamin to develop an NCAA Division I college basketball exhibition team under the organization's banner.  

Upon review of my proposal, Guy explained to be that AUP didn't have a budget for basketball, and then stated that if you think you can pull it off, then let's go for it. After receiving his full support for the venture, I immediately sought cousel from AUP advisory board member Al Attles, an executive for the NBA Golden State Warriors on how to build a solid foundation for the team.  

Al encouraged me to use the exhibition team as a way to reward the pool of players from around the Bay Area who had recently graduated, and those who were working to complete their degrees.  I next contacted several college coaches to begin developing the schedule, and this began my experience learning about the business side of college sports when negotiating the game guarantee contracts with the respective athletic directors.

The inaugural season for the exhibition team kicked off in 1990 shortly after the start of the Gulf War in Iraq, thus starting the Northern California Goodwill Tour in protest of the war.  The team competed for four seasons, and included preseason games against the University of San Francisco, Santa Clara University, University of Nevada Reno, Univerity of Pacific, and Sacramento State University.    
Academics & Sports Mentorship
Growing up as part of Berkeley High School's basketball tradition, I was able to work out an agreement to use the school's gym as our exhibition team's practice facility. In exchange, our players served as mentors for the school's players (freshman, JV, and varsity).

After the first two seasons, our AUP volunteer staff saw a need to work with groups of younger participants to get an early start at teaching them the importance of maintaining a proper balance between their academics and sports activities in preparation for participation in high school sports.

What we found was that too many youths in Berkeley were not focusing enough attention on their academic studies, and had no knowledge about the requirements for participating in interscholastic high school sports.  Therefore, a great deal of teens were unable to particpate in sports activities because of they lacked the grades.

The combination of weekly educational workshops and basketball fundamentals instruction, proved that a positive connection could be made with young people through mentorship and sports. .  Over the six-year duration, the program was conducted in partnership with the Berkeley Parks & Recreation Dept, Berkeley YMCA, and Eastshore Community Center.

Berkeley Latenight Basketball
In 1993, after Guy Benjamin returned to coach college football on Bill Walsh's staff at Stanford, I was appointed AUP's interim executive director and moved the organization's operations across the Bay to Berkeley.

A short time later that year, I was asked by members of the Berkeley City Council to help develop a program that would address the myriad of problems they faced with drug abuse, crime and anti-social behavior amongst the city's youth and young adult population. So we teamed up to form Berkeley Latenight and Twilite Basketball as a socio-recreational program to provide the community with a positive alternative.  The program was funded by the City of Berkeley from 1993 to 2009.

Modeled after the Midnight Basketball Program, Berkeley Latenight Basketball offered participants and members of the community with a year-round program on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons consisting of a series of educational workshops for substance abuse, health & wellness, conflict resolution, continued education, and employment training & job placement.  After the weekly workshop sessions, participants engaged in the program's competitive basketball league.

Throughout its duration (1993-2009), the program used basketball to help steer hundreds and hundreds of young people throughout the East Bay in a more positive direction. Berkeley Latenight Basketball was conducted weekly at Berkeley High School, West Campus, Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, and on Saturdays afternoons at the University of California's People's Park.
AUP Media
During the first year of Berkeley Latenight Basketball, our AUP program staff documented the workshops and league games with a small Sony Hi8 camcorder as a way to better review and evaluate the program.  Then later, AUP's Steve Jefferson one day approached me about signing our group up for video production training at Berkeley Community Media (BCM).

Four members of our staff and five participants completed the training, which allowed us to begin airing AUP's weekly program activities on Berkeley's new public access television station.  Looking back on this experience, it actually became the start of my long career in media.  Through our close association with BCM, AUP eventually branched out by producing the Hi8 Reel Show comprised of weekly half-hour community interest stories throughout the East Bay community.

As the digital age began replacing analog video in the mid 1990's, I had the opportunity to fully learn the new technology while in graduate school completing my master's degree at California State University Monterey Bay.  And through the help of AUP's Jacques Bronson, we teamed together to form AUP Media, the nonprofit organization's in-house media division.

This new venture positioned AUP to become more financially self sustaining through video production and media training contract services with state and local government agencies, school districts and educational institutions, faith-based groups, and other Bay Area nonprofit organizations.  The countless hours of work and enormous collection of media served as the basis for this online archive.      

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