Credit: (Photo by Leland Stein III)

Last Updated on April 4, 2022 by BVN

Leland Stein III |

Recently, The National Alliance of African American Athletes,  also known as “The Alliance” came together again to shine a light on the achievements of Black male scholar-athletes.

This year’s event was made even more special because it was held at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, MD. This year  “The Alliance,” a volunteer organization, celebrated its 30th Annual Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Awards.

Despite the challenges the organization has faced in recent years including the pandemic, The Alliance has overcome them all to continue recognizing America’s premiere African American high school scholar-athletes.

Why this award? 

As legendary NFL Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown once stated in an interview with the Black press,  “We have to document and tell our own stories. If we don’t acknowledge and uplift our own,  who will?”

The Alliance has lived Brown’s vision of celebrating, documenting, and telling the stories of America’s top Black male scholar-athletes since 1992 in an effort to bring an alternative voice to the stereotypical “just shut-up and play ball” dumb jock narratives too often pushed upon Black student athletes.

The pandemic forced a cancellation of the 2021 Watkins Awards; however, time and vaccinations opened the door for the Watkins Class of 2022.

“We are honored to be at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz club after enduring the pandemic last year,” said J. Everette Pearsall, Executive Director of The Alliance. “The 2022 Watkins Class is an amazing group of young men who have demonstrated their leadership skills in the classroom, in athletics and in their community.”

“They will certainly represent the Watkins Award family with class and integrity,” he continued. “After listening to these young men speak, I am sure many in attendance would agree they are our future. These young men are All-American athletes, but they are more than that. These scholar-athletes are even better people who at a young age are committed to something more than themselves.”  

Meet the athlete-scholars

The five members of the 2022 Watkins Scholar-Athlete Class were selected based on their unweighted grade-point average, personal statement/essay, extracurricular activities, documented community service, athletic prowess, and four letters of recommendation. 

Tyler Booker, an offensive tackle from New Haven, Connecticut carried a 3.6 GPA and has enrolled at the University of Alabama. On the field, he was an Under Armour and MaxPreps All-American.

Elijah Green of Orlando, Florida achieved a 4.1 GPA. He is regarded as an elite hitter, fielder and baserunner, and has accepted a scholarship to play baseball for the University of Miami. Green has options as he is one of the top prospects for the 2022 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

Braden Davis of Middletown, Delaware earned a lofty 4.2 GPA and completed early enrollment at the University of South Carolina. Noted as a member of the National Honor Society and a strong-armed quarterback with good feet, he was named the Gatorade Delaware Player of the Year.

Harold Perkins from Cypress, Texas merited a 4.0 GPA while also being a standout running back and linebacker. He has accepted a scholarship from Louisiana State University (LSU). Perkins was named the Houston Touchdown Club Offensive Player of the Year, as well as, Under Armour All-American.

Wesley Williams out of Gainesville, Virginia attained a 4.2 GPA while also starring at defensive end and on the basketball court. This member of the National Honor Society has accepted a scholarship offer to play football for Duke University.

In addition to the awards, all five members of the Watkins Class of 2022 will receive a  ring, and an honor’s dinner in their hometown.

Black athletes and their images

As mass media and communications continue to evolve it is unavoidable for athletes to be viewed as role models. 

“These young men are indeed warriors for education,” exclaimed Reggie Grant, past chairman of The Alliance. “The 2022 Watkins Class will indeed be role models for youth not so much for what they do on the field, but how they live their lives, and how they achieve in the classroom. They will show those that come after them that one can be an academic warrior and noteworthy athlete at the same time,” 

Dr. Alexander Gabbin, former Chair of the Watkins’ Selection Committee noted, “We are constantly exposed to negatives concerning our communities, but this award has demonstrated for 30-years that we indeed, from all over the U.S., have young [Black] men that value education, athletics and community. What is significant about our Black-Tie event is that the community has taken it upon themselves to correct the bias that young Black kids do not take education seriously.”

The hope of The Alliance is that this experience can help push Watkins Finalists to use their scholarship to become leaders in efforts to empower and improve disadvantaged communities.

Also honored this year was Ted Ginn Sr., legendary high school coach in Cleveland, OH. He was awarded the Sharon Love Ransom Community Service Award.

Defining the future 

The Watkins Weekend brings young scholar-athletes face to face with the reality that through sports, they have an opportunity and an obligation to do more for their communities. What they do and say sometimes can transcend just sports and help define what emerging generations of African-American males will value, and the aspirations they will have.

The Alliance notes its mission is to empower African American males through athletics, education and public programs. Past Watkins finalists include: James Winston, Heisman Trophy winner and New Orleans quarterback; Rhodes Scholar Dr. Myron Rolle; University of Georgia’s Nakobe Dean winner of the 2021 Butkus Award for the best linebacker; Univ. of Texas scholar Justin Blalock, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons; Gerald McCoy formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; as well as, scholar-athletes like Mohamed Massaquoi, Ted Ginn Jr, Lorenzo Alexander, Marcedes Lewis, Jamal Rashad Patterson, and Dwayne Haskins . . . just to name a few.

To nominate a student-athlete or learn more about The Alliance go to  http://www.naaaa.com.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com and at Twitter @LelandSteinIII.