The National Basketball Association has been built by black history. So, too, has our nation. To help ensure that lesson is learned and never forgotten, Utah Jazz players, head coach Quin Snyder and team governors Ryan and Ashley Smith are joining together to share the global impact of Black history heroes with K-12 students throughout the state of Utah. The team’s Black History Heroes program is a streaming series on the team’s YouTube channel that will be available for schools to use as part of their curriculum. The team will explore people and events in Black history that have inspired them in their own lives. Individual sessions will be held with the team for all Utah elementary schools on Feb. 18, for all Utah junior high schools on Feb. 23, and for all Utah high schools on Feb. 25. These “Black History Heroes” discussions will go live at 10 a.m. MT on the respective days and will be available on demand for use as part of school curriculums. The launch of the series coincides with Black History Month but is part of a larger mission. “It’s not that we’re going to be anti-racist. We’re going to be actively anti-racist as an organization,” Ryan Smith said recently. “That means we’re going to take our time and energy, and we’re going to use this platform to help make our communities more equitable from education to health care.” The Smiths have already pledged to fund one four-year scholarship for a student from an underrepresented group for each Jazz victory this season. As of Tuesday, that number stood at 23. The Jazz have been celebrating Black History Month in other ways, too. The team is conducting an essay contest for 9th through 12th grade students as part of its Black History Month educational outreach. The theme of this year’s contest is “Investing in the Future.” Student essays are based on the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The compact is founded on the principles that all people are created equal and that all Utahns must have a truly equal opportunity to prosper. A judging committee will select three finalists, one of which will be the overall winner. All three finalists will receive a $500 gift card and a Jazz fan pack. In addition, the overall winner will receive a virtual appearance with a Jazz player to their class. Students can visit www.nba.com/jazz/community for official rules and to submit their essay. The entry deadline is Feb. 17. Meanwhile, Utah Jazz digital reporter and producer Nayo Campbell is featuring one of the state’s Black-owned businesses each week, sharing their stories, community impact and discussing the importance of representation.
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