Recently, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant wrote a piece, featured on The Undefeated website, regarding his hometown of Seat Pleasant, Maryland. Durant humbly explained a tough beginning and how focused he had to be in order to overcome the odds of ever making it out of there and off to bigger and better things. The short message below is set to be in ESPN the Magazine’s State of the Black Athlete issue, set to hit shelves February 5th.
“I hail from Seat Pleasant, Maryland, a predominantly African-American town of about 5,000 people just east of Washington, D.C., that certainly has had its share of struggles. If I could talk to myself when I was a young man growing up there, I would say that having tunnel vision when you’re passionate about something is a gift and a curse. While I knew how bad my surroundings were, and how tough it is to make it out, I had a laser focus on achieving what was necessary to leave my community. I didn’t want to abandon my hometown, but there was always something going on: police brutality, poverty, crime. In order to get out of this mess, I ultimately had to turn a blind eye to what was going on. I had to ignore it. And I felt like basketball was the only way I could get out of that wreckage.
Looking back at my childhood, I wish I would have just opened my eyes. I lived in a 95 percent black neighborhood with 80 percent of us living in poverty. But I didn’t really have the maturity or the voice to get involved back then. Today, I realize that my achievements are rare for somebody from my neighborhood. Today, I know that I can give a lot of hope to people who feel like they don’t have a way out. While I have regrets that I didn’t realize this earlier, today I can make amends to my community by providing hope and joy to people who come from where I come from and that struggle the way I struggled. Now I am aware of the problems.
I am in an unusual place—I feel like I’m living two lives, one as an NBA player and another as a black man from an impoverished neighborhood.
After winning an NBA championship, I was in the optimal position to help inspire my hometown. I brought the trophy back last August and saw that the people in my neighborhood were happy about it. It meant everything to me that the people of Seat Pleasant showed up for my championship parade, especially because it was on a weekday in the middle of the day. Usually, people have to work and go provide for their families. I thought about my mom’s struggle and how she could have never shown up to that celebration back in the day. Seeing my community’s reaction to my success proves that if we’re put in good positions by being given the necessary help and resources, we can flourish.
There’s just so many loving, caring and amazing people in Seat Pleasant. But it’s difficult to sustain the foundation of happiness in our souls when our surroundings bring out ugliness. When we’re given the gift of a great environment where people care for us and support us, it is our duty to give it back. We need to invest in our own communities. Invest in our kids. I believe communities will blossom and our country as a whole will be better because of it.
There are many great people who are trying to fight their way out of the struggle. For people like me who come from that struggle, it’s relatively easy to give money back or say how much we care. It’s a tough job, however, for us to really put our feet on the ground and put our imprint on those communities. But it is not an unattainable ideal.
Sadly, back home there is little progress. People are stuck in the same cycle every day, surviving minute by minute. I have been blessed to see the other side. Once given financial freedom, the world opens up. Your eyes open up. Every community needs resources, and those resources give people opportunities to do things they are passionate about and get their minds focused in the right direction. It has a trickle-down effect: a better household, a better community and a better future for our kids.
If I could give some advice to the youth of Seat Pleasant, it would be to find something that you love and do it as if your life depends on it. It sounds cliché, but it’s really that simple. If you put your mind to it, have faith and seek support, all with the foundation of a strong work ethic, the world will open for you. And once the world is open for you, then the conversations with close friends and family about how we can effect further progress in our communities will come from your own fulfillment, joy and freedom. So try to find your passion every day. See what the world has for you.
Kevin Durant from Seat Pleasant”
Last August, the mayor of Seat Pleasant, Eugene W. Grant, decided to create an official “Kevin Durant Day.” August 17th will forever be a day where the people of Seat Pleasant can celebrate one of their favorite hometown heroes. The first annual celebration took place as Durant rode through the streets with people cheering over his championship and NBA Finals MVP. From then on, it was to be known as his day and his day alone.
“Social media went crazy after the championship win, and people were saying something needs to be done for Kevin,” Grant said. “We went to work and reached out to all of our partners in the community and asked them to be a part of a committee to plan this event. People were very gracious with their time and their energy.
“This is something that will allow the entire community to come together,” Grant said. “We’re just excited for the opportunity to honor one of our favorite sons here in Seat Pleasant. This is a day of pride for us. And particularly as a black man myself, and to see young black men in our community, to see Kevin Durant, who has reached the levels and pinnacles that he has reached, certainly is an inspiring story. He did not come from a silver spoon in his mouth; he came from a community just like these young people live in today. This is a story that we want to make certain that our young people are able to look to and be inspired by and know that the future is hopeful, even for them.”