YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- Yorktown High School grad Ousmane Power-Greene, an athlete, college professor, and author, was named by North Carolina Athletics as its honoree for Black History Month.
Power-Green, a member of the Class of 1991, played lacrosse, basketball, and football while growing up in Yorktown.
Yorktown’s lacrosse program has produced 39 section championships, seven state championships, and numerous college athletes.
After high school, Power-Greene spent a year at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also played lacrosse. He was a midfielder on the 1993 National Finalists team.
He told goheels.com, the school’s athletics department’s media arm that Yorktown had sent a “lot of guys” to colleges such as Syracuse and Hopkins, but only one had gone to North Carolina before he did. Afterwards, a “whole bunch” went, he said.
Besides honoring alums like Power-Greene, The University of North Carolina also celebrated Black History in February with speakers, panels, and historical tours.
Power-Greene turned out to be a powerhouse in the classroom as well.
He earned his bachelor’s degree at North Carolina and his master’s and doctorate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, then went on to teach at the University of Connecticut-Storrs, Hampshire College, and his alma mater, before taking an associate professorship in history at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
In 2014, NYU Press published Power-Greene’s book “Against Wind and Tide: The African-American Struggle against the Colonization Movement.” It examines the efforts of free blacks to agitate for equal rights in the face of the American Colonization Society’s attempts to force them to leave the country.
Power-Greene remembered his Yorktown coach and social studies teacher, Jim Turnbull, as someone who helped mold his future in academics.
“He really forced you to think critically,” he said.
Power-Greene said when he and his high school friends, and teammates, got together, they just didn’t talk sports, they tackled current issues.
Not one to put people “in a box,” the multi-faceted 44-year-old said he has always “pushed back against labels.”
So it might surprise folks to know, he said, that some of those same rough, tough football players were on a hip hop dance team and also participated in the high school’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, “The Pirates of Penzance.”
But the most defining moment for Power-Greene happened when, as a fourth-grader, his story about a kid's “worse day ever” was chosen for a Young Authors & Illustrators conference.
It was there that he got to meet author Judy Blume, best known for “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” and actor/author Alan Arkin, and realized that it was his "dream" to write.
Now with one book of non-fiction under his belt and a novel on the way, he's making the dream come true.
“It’s awesome to be at this point.”
Power-Greene told goheels.com that while he was a “very average” college student at first he became inspired by several professors, including Colin Palmer, one of the first black chairmen on the school’s history department, who took him under his wing and nurtured his love of history.
He also recalled being "thrilled" to be able to send a copy of "Against Wind and Tide" to college mentor Genna Rae McNeill.
Power-Greene told goheels.com that he had learned valuable lessons at North Carolina, both in the classroom and on the playing field.
As an athlete, Power-Greene was “good” but not “great,” but with hard work and the support of folks who believed in him, he succeeded.
It doesn’t really matter what grades you got, or if you were “superstar athlete” in high school, it’s “those values of working hard and understanding sacrifices, the sacrifices you have to make to be successful,” he told goheels.com.