Call it an interactive lunch. Herman Boone — who addressed Southern Nazarene University's Peer Learning Network on Thursday at the Petroleum Club — asked guests to shake a neighbor's hand, and then place their respective free hands atop their joined hands and raise them skyward.
“Feel the warmth and intensity?” he asked.
Boone — the legendary black football coach portrayed in Disney's 2000 movie “Remember the Titans” — said he used the exercise to help successfully unite the segregated rival football teams of three Alexandria, Va.-based high schools forced to integrate into T.C. Williams High School in 1971.
“Black hands shook white hands, and white hands shook black hands — for the first time,” said Boone, who was portrayed in the movie by Denzel Washington.
“The first step toward building and sustaining a winning team is getting people to talk to one another,” said Boone, 77. “It doesn't matter if you don't like each other, but you've got to respect each other.”
Racial tensions ran high in the early ‘70s, Boone said, when he was promoted from assistant to head coach at T.C. Williams over Coach Bill Yoast, a white coach who had more seniority and a favorable following in the community.
The breakthrough toward unification, he said, is when the team of 14 assistant coaches and some 65 players went off to a two-week training camp.
One more thing
“We lived together, ate together, practiced together and prayed together. But when I noticed white and black players still weren't sitting together at meals in the cafeteria, I told them I'd had enough, and to get up right then and get on the bus. It was 8 or 9 at night and we drove to the Gettysburg National Cemetery, where I explained thousands, their same age, had died over the same fight.”
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The first step toward building and sustaining a winning team is getting people to talk to one another. It doesn't matter if you don't like each other, but you've got to respect each other.”