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As part of ESPN’s commemoration of Black History Month, SportsCenter on the Road will air from Hampton (Va.) University Saturday at 10 a.m. ET. SportsCenter will lead into Hampton’s first men’s lacrosse match as a Division I program, making Hampton the first HBCU to field a D-1 men’s lacrosse team since Morgan State in 1981. Jay Harris and Lisa Kerney will anchor the one-hour program.
Scoop Jackson, columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com, prepared a feature for the program on the newly created lacrosse team and the historic Emancipation Oak on Hampton’s campus. The tree served as the first classroom for newly freed men/women and was also the location for the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Jackson spoke with Front Row about the feature:
Going into this assignment, what was your goal in telling the story of the new Hampton lacrosse team?
Through prep talk with producer Lauren Stowell we decided we wanted to give the audience some sense of how important and rare this team was, how difficult it was to build the program back up and answer the question the viewers may ask themselves: Why should I watch this team/game?
How did you approach your reporting on Emancipation Oak for viewers that may not know the story behind it?
I wanted to make sure that there was a strong historical context in the script so that the viewer got a clear understanding of not just the Emancipation Oak, but of trees in general. One of the things that we discussed before I wrote the piece was how trees have longer lives than humans and how each tree has hundreds of years of stories to tell. And even though we wound up editing that part out of the script, we felt it was important to establish that feel in the piece.
Did you personally learn something from this assignment that you did not know before?
Yes. The fact that the Emancipation Oak was literally Hampton’s first classroom and how they held classes under the tree and then built the school around the tree. That was pretty powerful information to learn. I also learned the power the usage and analogies of “strange fruit’ and “blood on the leaves” still hold. We had to discuss whether or not using the term “strange fruit” was appropriate or if it would go over the heads of the viewer. Only in the end to decide that it was more important for us in this instance to stay strong to what we believed is truth and have that truth about that tree speak to power.