Throughout the month of February, Temple athletics will be celebrating Black History Month. Check back throughout the month for different features, videos and quotes from Temple's student-athletes, administrators and alumni.

Janine Simmons Quote | Mary McElroy Reflections | Safa Ibrahim Quote | Dr. Stephany Coakley Reflections | Blockson Collection Video | Sahara Gipson Quote
Aaron McKie Reflections | Nikki Franke Video | David Hood Quote | Darian Bryant Poem | Meek Millennials Video | Fred Roland Reflections | Blessing Olaode Quote | Da'Mon Merkerson Reflections

Da'Mon Merkerson: What Black History Month Means to Me

This is one of a series of first-person accounts from Temple Athletics coaches and administrators on what Black History Month means to them.

As an educator and life learner, this month is amazing because I get to teach and learn at the same time. Black History Month is an opportunity for us to recognize the people who have contributed to our society and have not received the recognition and attention in our history books.
There is nothing wrong with talking about figures we have known about for years such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks. During this month I also use the opportunity to acknowledge and educate myself and others about the lesser-known stories about some incredible people. The Paul Robesons that did amazing things as a student-athlete, performer and activist. Pioneers like Cheikh Anta Diop whose research was critical to the history of Africa as well his contributions to African American Studies. Black History is American history and I believe that we should use this month as an opportunity to create dialogues with people from all backgrounds.
This month for me is a time of reflection and education on our history. Carter G. Woodson, known as the Father of Black History, worked for years to get recognition for the accomplishments of African Americans. In February, 1926, Negro History Week started and this program would be renamed Black History Month. This month is a time for us to show our gratitude to people like Carter G. Woodson.

Da'Mon Merkerson joined the staff of Temple University's Nancy & Donald Resnick Academic Support Center For Student-Athletes as an Academic Advisor in August, 2014, He was promoted to Assistant Director in September, 2017. 
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Blessing Olaode Women's Fencing • Junior • Maplewood, N.J.
"Black history month to me is an opportunity to continue to educate myself and others around me about the history of black people, which is truly part of American history. Its an opportunity to explore the many groups and events that go on around the community and truly get involved with something that may not necessarily be familiar or comfortable for me."
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Fred Roland: What Black History Month Means to Me

This is one of a series of first-person accounts from Temple Athletics coaches and administrators on what Black History Month means to them.

While I get to live and celebrate black history every day, I believe that Black History Month is an open invitation for everyone to take a more purposeful look back at our colorful, tragically beautiful story.  In doing so, we allow ourselves to gain a more thorough appreciation for the contributions that people of the African Diaspora have made to the world and how we all benefit tremendously from them. 

It is also an opportunity for people like me to specifically identify and pay homage to individuals who have come before us, who may have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can continue to build on the foundations that they established.  It is not lost on me that we have so much work to do, but I am encouraged to know that our nuanced history is ongoing and we have an amazing opportunity to set the course. 

Fred Roland, who has also served on the athletics development staff at Army West Point and Duke University, is in his second year as Director of Major Gifts for Athletics at Temple University.
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As part of OwlsTV's ongoing series highlighting Black History Month, we check in with student-athletes enrolled in Professor Aaron Smith's class "Meek Millennials; A Hip-Hop Investigation of the Present Generation." Smith, also known as "The Rapping Professor," engages his class in a number of topics related to race and culture through the prism of rap music.
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Darian Bryant • Football Redshirt Sophomore Philadelphia, Pa.
Bryant is an African American Studies major. This is one of the poems he has written for his classes.
(Click to enlarge and view in PDF format)
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David Hood Football Redshirt Junior Atlantic City, N.J.
"To me, being an African American means being proud to have come from such powerful descendants. I'm thankful to have a platform and the voice I need to enlighten my people that we are much more than statistics at a penitentiary, or another countless murder victim. The world started in Africa. We started its foundation and have lost our footing, and we simply need to regain hope and come together as a family for a greater cause. As a father, I believe it's my duty now to foresee these faults in our culture and to instill this in my son to help create hope for future generations. Every day a star is born. He may be the next MLK with a dream for peace and to be treated equally, rather than to judged by appearances or living circumstances."
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Longtime Temple fencing head coach Dr. Nikki Franke sat down with OwlsTV to speak about Black History Month, as well as her legacy as a coach and professor at Temple University.
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Aaron McKie: What Black History Month Means to Me

This is one of a series of first-person accounts from Temple Athletics coaches and administrators on what Black History Month means to them.

Black History Month has a special meaning to me. It is about Bill Ellerbee, John Chaney, John Hardnett and all of the individuals who impacted my life, and not just my life, but the lives of so many of kids in the inner-city and the community. They paved the way for us to have better lives and to be able to go to school and become educated.

We obviously know the "knowns" - Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall and all of the other people that we celebrate that paid a heavy price in our society to better a lot of not just African American lives but individual lives that do not have a voice.

I am very thankful for what those that came before me did to impact my life and so many other lives. It is up to us to continue that tradition.

Aaron McKie is in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Temple men's basketball team. A prolific player under Hall of Fame coach John Chaney (1991-94), the Temple alum played 13 seasons in the NBA, eight with the Philadelphia 76ers, and was also an assistant coach with the 76ers for six seasons.
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Sahara Gipson Women's Gymnastics Senior Oakland, N.J.
"Black History Month is a month of reflection upon the vast and enormous contributions made to the the world and society by people of the African Diaspora. Still til this day we are creating black history. February is the time to highlight these milestones but as a people we're making history everyday. I joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. because of the admirable and distinguished legacy. My organization is comprised of women who are trailblazers, women who start conversations, women who lead the march against injustices and raise awareness to an array of social issues. My experience as a black student athlete has been enhanced because of my involvement with the black community at Temple."
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Student-Athletes Utilize Temple Libraries' Blockson Afro-American Collection
This is one of a series of videos from OwlsTV celebrating Black History Month.

OwlsTV caught up with a quartet of student-athletes - football's David Hood, Karamo Dioubate, and Keyvone Bruton, as well as gymnastics' Sahara Gipson - as they talk about their research projects that utilize Temple Libraries' Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.
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Dr. Stephany Coakley: What Black History Month Means to Me

This is one of a series of first-person accounts from Temple Athletics coaches and administrators on what Black History Month means to them.

It is not lost on me that I stand on the shoulders of descendants from across the African Diaspora.

During Black History Month it is my privilege to honor the lives and legacies of African Americans who have made contributions, great and small, across all spectrums of American life. There are many whose names are not written in the history books who have made contributions as well, and I honor those individuals.

I am extremely grateful for the struggles and the sacrifices that have been made so that I could live the life that I do. We must always remember the past, even as we continue to make history.

Dr. Stephany Coakley, a certified mental performance consultant and licensed professional counselor with a doctorate in exercise and sport science with a concentration in sports psychology, is in her first year as Senior Associate Athletic Director for Mental Health, Wellness and Performance at Temple University.
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Safa Ibrahim Women's Fencing Senior Bronx, N.Y.
"I choose to celebrate Black history month everyday. African American history provides society a platform to learn from past mistakes. It entails the achievements and the resilience that African Americans obtained in order to overcome adversity. It reminds us of our past struggles and the challenges we continue to face in today's society. African American history is an important aspect in my life because it teaches me about the importance of using my voice to fight for what I believe in and it is a reminder of the contributions and accomplishments of African Americans."
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Mary McElroy: What Black History Month Means to Me

This is the first of a series of first-person accounts from Temple Athletics coaches and administrators on what Black History Month means to them.

Black History Month is important to me because as I have gotten older, I have realized more and more that we all are Americans, and those of us who happened to have been born Black, are not always educated on our country's full history. I have become aware of some Black heroes and sheroes (pronounced "she"- roes) through movies such as Hidden Figures, Hurricane, the Butler, and Twelve Years a Slave. I have also learned about more of them via the snippets of history that are shared on BET, and on Black radio stations via the Little Known Black History Facts ( We all benefit from the opportunity to learn positive and uplifting stories about people, situations and ordeals that our people have endured and overcome, as well as things that they have achieved, things they have invented, and honorable actions they have taken.

We grow up learning about the accomplishments of some them: Crispus Attucks, Benjamin Banneker, George Washington Carver, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King to name a few, but we were not taught anything about Katherine Johnson - the brilliant mathematician profiled in the movie Hidden Figures, or Rubin "Hurricane" Carter - the boxer who was wrongly convicted of murder and forced to spend almost 20 years in prison, nor were we made aware of the story of Solomon Northup from Twelve Years a Slave, who was born a free man but was kidnapped and sold into slavery where he languished for 12 years before he escaped.

Over the years, I have learned about many inspiring stories of Black people who made history, succeeding against the odds that were stacked against them, and others who made history simply by doing what my parents taught me - working hard, getting a good education, treating others like I want to be treated, and doing the right thing. People like Cecil B. Moore, a lawyer and activist from Philadelphia who led the fight to integrate Girard College; Admiral Michelle Howard, who became the first woman ever to attain the rank of four-star Admiral who oversaw the rescue mission that saved Captain Phillips from Somali pirates; and General Charles Bolden, who became the first Black commander of the Space Shuttle. All of them inspire us to aim high and not let anything stop us from pursuing our dreams.

Through Black History Month, I have gotten the opportunity to learn about these great American citizens and everyday heroes, and doers of great things. That has made me more appreciative of the opportunities that their intellect, hard work, activism, and commitment have yielded for my parents, me and my brothers and sisters, and my husband and sons.

Mary McElroy, who has served on the athletics staff at five different NCAA schools, is is in her third year as Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator (SWA) at Temple.
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Janine Simmons Women's Volleyball Senior Centreville, Va.
"Black History Month, for me, is a time of reflection of the past, present, and future. It gives me the ability to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of those before me in the hopes that I would have a better life. Additionally, it challenges me to continue to strive for excellence in pursuit of who I have the potential to be. Finally, Black History Month offers the opportunity for open dialogue to understand how far we have come, but also how much progress we have to work for in order to ensure equality for all."
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