By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Born after the riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Kingman Boys and Girls Club (BGC) began as a place that gave young, Black D.C. residents a place to congregate and flourish. It has earned a reputation for developing one of the top youth athletic programs in the District.
The impact of Kingman BGC has gone well beyond the citywide championships its sports programs have garnered. It has become a transformative place in the community that has groomed young people into educated professional leaders in the Nation’s Capital.
“Education has come first,” said Kingman BGC Executive Director Aaron Webster to the AFRO. “It was the foundation when the club opened in 1969 and it’s an even greater priority today.”
Kingman Boys and Girls Club, which has produced some of the greatest D.C. athletes, is celebrating 50 years since its founding post the riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is a photo of their 2011-2012 Greater Washington Under 8 champions. (Courtesy Photo)
Athletics continue to bring attention to the heralded walls that produce alumni who dramatically impact the District. Meanwhile, the tutoring and afterschool programs are where the influence of Kingman is being felt. From professional athletes to politics, the internal pride for many of the young people passing through Kingman is forged through the academic accomplishments buoyed by the staff and volunteers who mentor and work one on one with many kids who face reading challenges.
Webster said that many of their first grade students who enter the program are reading below their grade level despite report cards that say otherwise. In a test of 30 kids earlier this year, approximately 18 were below the average of where they should be and five couldn’t read their names. The staff had to begin teaching phonics in order to improve the reading acumen.
“If you can’t read you’re behind and that’s why so many kids act out or drop out of school,” said Webster. “There were some kids that were listed as A-B level students but the assessments told a whole different story.”
Boys and Girls Clubs have always been a place that develops leaders in cities around the country by transforming impressionable young people into productive citizens while giving them a place to belong. For 50 years the Kingman Boys and Girls Club has been making a positive difference in over 2,000 children’s lives in the Logan Circle Cardozo community in Northwest, D.C. by fostering a perspective on sports as an enjoyable outlet, but not as the focus to future success.
However, there is no disputing how the combination of academics and athletics is what drives the success of the program. Kingman’s 30-year athletic legacy is winning championships and sending hundreds of student-athletes to Division I and II programs around the country, which is supported by volunteers who raise funds to pay fees to compete in leagues around the city, all the while giving their time effortlessly.
In 1987 their crowning achievement was winning the National AAU basketball championship. Kingman’s athletic alumni are a who’s who of star college players that have made their marks as successful as professionals on and off the field.
Pro athletes, such as NBA All-Star Steve Francis, cut his basketball chops in the Kingman gym, as did McDonald’s High School All-American and former Maryland guard Duane Simpkins, along with Georgetown’s Bobby Winston. D.C.’s Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie is a product of the program.
Kingman even has generational connections, like the Webster Family. Darrell Webster matriculated through the club and ultimately graduated from George Washington University before his son Christian took the same path to graduate from Harvard.
“We tell people we’ve groomed college graduates from Howard to Harvard,” said Director Webster.