There’s always a conversation in sports about when parents introduced their kids to the game. And, as is the case with many pro athletes, there’s photographic evidence: them as tots gripping a football, baseball or basketball. You can almost trace their future back to their baby pictures. My “Renaissance Man” guest is not an athlete but an attorney with political activism in her DNA — and the picture to prove it.
Seattle native and political commentator Angela Rye can be found on ESPN, “The Breakfast Club” or YouTube, where she does segments and quizzes on black history. She posted a snap of herself as a toddler at a march to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday.
Said Rye, “My dad has some very deep spiritual connection to Dr. King and his teachings. And so there are a number of things he’s done in Seattle, from getting a street name changed to getting King County renamed Martin Luther King County, to that particular march and activation around getting that federal holiday. I think it’s really meaningful to have something like that, so you know that it’s in your blood.”
From a young age, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer. She even wrote it in her Cabbage Patch scrapbook.
“I think that there was something about what my dad did in terms of fighting for justice that was inspiring to me, wanting to protect what was in the best interest of our people. And then I was always told that I was good at arguing. So, I was like, ‘Oh, I should go to law school,’” said Rye.
Specifically, she wanted to do trial law and be the female Johnnie Cochran. But after she landed an internship with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, she felt drawn to the political arena.
Rye said, “She’s the chair of the Financial Services Committee. So, she was running a hearing and she had to say, ‘reclaiming my time,’ which is something that’s very normal. But it went viral because it struck a chord with a lot of black women who live their lives not feeling hurt. So she did that and it resonated with so many of us. So just being heard, being taken seriously for a lot of women who are even a little bit attractive in whatever field or space they’re in, people often think that because you have beauty, you don’t have brains. And I think that is a tremendous disservice to so many beautiful, brilliant black women.”
We talked about voting rights and Roe v. Wade potentially being overturned. And she reminded me that I need to brush up on my own knowledge of black history. Rye has a YouTube series called “Do You Know Your Black Facts Mane?!” So, she asked who wrote the black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and I did not know.
“I think that ‘Do You Know Your Black Facts Mane?!’ is a fun way to demonstrate that too many of us don’t know our history. Folks who are supposed to be allies also don’t know our history,” she said, adding that the answer to her question is James Weldon Johnson.
Most recently, Rye has done ESPN segments to mark two years since George Floyd’s murder and she sat down with Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner, who is being wrongfully detained in Russia. I know the media and government are trying to keep this low-key for her sake; however, we need to acknowledge that if she were an NBA player, this would be splashed all over the place, so I plug the campaign to bring her back safely whenever I can.
“I can’t imagine what her wife is experiencing because it just feels like I know that time is going by slow for me. So for someone close to Brittney, a teammate, I can’t imagine how that feels,” Rye said. “I wish that sense of urgency was there from the beginning, from the administration and other people … They’re trying to handle it delicately because they don’t want to make the situation worse for her. We need to be doing everything at all costs to get Brittney back.
“But I know now there’s been an increased sense of urgency. Bill Richardson, who was the former ambassador to the United Nations, also a former energy secretary under Clinton, is now working on her case and the diplomacy efforts around there,” she continued.
Rye also introduced me to wellness guru Queen Afua, whom I interviewed on the podcast. She, in turn, introduced Rye to Africa. Queen Afua mentioned that she was going to Ghana in a few weeks and Rye jumped on it.
“And she’s like, ‘You want to go?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to go.’ So that was easy. I’ve been dying to go to the continent forever. I have more Nigerian DNA on my DNA report than Ghanaian; [however,] I remember when I was landing, it was this red soil and I’d never seen anything like it. But in my body, it was like, ‘Oh, this feels so familiar,’” Rye said, adding that she cried and thought of her ancestors. She felt like she was home.
“So it was an incredible journey. I think it was a game changer. I encourage everybody to go,” she added
Her description moved that trip higher up on my own bucket list.
And on a less serious note, I also wanted to acknowledge Rye’s fabulous fashion sense. She is a fan of designer Sergio Hudson. But I must point out that she wore black socks and a Jalen Rose Fab Five jersey, so there’s no argument here: Angela Rye has brains, beauty and great style.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.
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