Subjects of movie 'Remember the Titans' discuss race in Cape

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Herman Boone spoke to an audience Tuesday at Bedell Performance Hall along with Bill Yoast, right, about their experiences as coaches of the T.C. Williams High School football team, which was the basis for the 2000 movie "Remember the Titans." Southeast Missouri State coaches Lana Richmond, left, and Tony Samuel listened. (Fred Lynch)

The subjects of the movie 'Remember the Titans' discussed the issue of race.

"Remember the Titans" was not a football movie.

That was just one of the many points former high school football coach Herman Boone, who was potrayed by Denzel Washington in "Remember the Titans," emphasized in a speech he delivered Tuesday night at Bedell Performance Hall on the Southeast Missouri State River Campus.

"I take the opportunity wherever I go not only to incorporate 'Remember the Titans,' which is not about football," Boone said. "If any of you would like to see a football picture, then go see 'Friday Night Lights.' But if you want to see a movie about some young people in Alexandria, Va., in 1971 who could accept the soul of an individual and not reject an individual based on the color of his skin, go see 'Remember the Titans.'

"When any one of you feel that you cannot live without hate, then Remember the Titans," he continued. "I think it's my solemn responsibilty to go around the country and to ask young people, did you know?"

Bill Yoast spoke about his experience as a coach of the Titans football team Tuesday at Bedell Performance Hall. (Fred Lynch)

Boone spoke along with his former assistant coach, Bill Yoast, who was portrayed in the movie by actor Will Patton.

The two were joined in discussion by Southeast track coach Joey Haines, soccer coach Heather Nelson, softball coach Lana Richmond and football coach Tony Samuel. Boone's speech was not centered on the movie about his state championship football team.

The movie was about overcoming the racial tension created when three high schools were intergrated, forcing both black and white athletes to play on the same high school football team. More tension was created when Boone, a black coach, was selected to head the team and Yoast, who is white, was named his assistant.

Instead, Boone focused his talk on his belief in the need for more education about black history -- not only in schools but also at home.

He used the phrase, "Did you know?" frequently.

He asked the crowd questions such as "Did you know Martin Luther King Jr. was born with the first name Michael?"

He also asked the audience if they knew about Gale Sayers, a former black NFL star running back. Or whether any one in the crowd was ever required during their educational careers to read any writings by King, like they would have been assigned to read the Gettysburg Address.

Boone was out on the road speaking to youngsters 86 days last year and expects to surpass that total this year. He said his goal is to promote black history.

"Unless we can learn to carry the dream of Dr. King, we are all going to let the legacy fold because of our inner tension," Boone explained when interviewed after his speech. "This is out of honor of Dr. King tonight, and when I get an opportunity any other night, it's the same thing. Black history has been so dehumanized that no one even knows we had any history."

Samuel, the Redhawks head football coach, mentioned during the open discussion that he played high school football at two different schools. One which had mostly white students and the other in which the team was primarily black. He said there was a lot of cross-cultural learning, like the movie.

He also added that he thought it was important for Boone not only to focus his speech on the movie, but also to bring to light black history and education.

"First of all, it was an honor to have those two coaches here," Samuel said after the session. "They've been through a lot. Sometimes with my generation, his generation, we begin to wonder if the history is still there with what went on and if people are still being educated about it. I thought that was a great message, a very, very timely message. ... Coach was not just talking to just the athlete. He was talking generally."

Haines, Southeast's track coach, also shared during the session that when he attended high school in Georgia during the 1960s, white and black schools did not compete against one another. There were separate conferences and separate state championships, he said.

He said before he went to college in Nashville he had no interaction with black athletes or students. He said finally having black teammates was a tremendous learning experience for him and others like him.

He said after the discussion that Boone's message was an important one.

"I thought it was great," Haines said. "My teams are usually 50-50 [white-black], and sometimes more predominately black. So I interact a lot with my black athletes about the past. I have athletes on my team now that I coached their mothers and fathers, and so I'm into second generations. ... It's real important that they do know it because you have to know where you came from."

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