Messenger of Hope, Author Arshay Cooper To Speak at Alumni House and Pacific’s Sacramento Campus
“Their eyes have no soul, like life has been sucked out of them. They are as thin as drinking straws and speak no words, only noises. I’m petrified every time I tiptoe past them.” That’s how Suga Water author, activist and self-proclaimed messenger of hope Arshay Cooper describes the drug addicts in the West Side of Chicago building where he grew up. Stockton and Sacramento youth and their mentors are ready to hear his hopeful message: “You can be the product of your effort, not of your environment.” His life story, being made into a major motion picture, is a testament to the truth of that message.
Mr. Cooper will speak 7:00 – 8:30, Nov. 3 at the Alex and Jeri Vereschagin Alumni House at the University and 4:00 – 5:30, Nov. 4 at the Sacramento Library, Grand Salon, Room 180 at the Benerd School of Education’s Sacramento campus. He peppers his talks with stories that reflect the amazing resilience with which he overcame obstacles in one of America’s poorest and most violent neighborhoods and speaks eloquently about the impact his mentors, especially his rowing coaches, a benefactor and counselors from all walks of life, had on him and his rowing crew. He has devoted his life to being such a mentor to youth across the country.
“In a way, he and seven high school buddies became the Jackie Robinsons of the rowing world,” said Pat Tirone, founder and head coach of Delta Sculling Center, a sponsor of the visits along with University of the Pacific and other local organizations. “They became the first all-black high school crew in the United States” and as Mr. Cooper writes in his book, their lives were changed in the process.
Cooper was raised by a single mother, who overcame drug addiction, in a neighborhood plagued by gang violence and drugs. He was recruited to the rowing team of Chicago’s Manley Career Academy High School in 1997 to try out a predominantly white athletes’ sport. Skeptical at first, he eventually joined the team, a decision that he says transformed his life. Cooper became crew team captain, graduated high school, went on to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer and became a chef who started his own catering business.
More recently, Cooper coaches rowing crews in New York City and speaks to thousands of students, mentors, coaches and community organizers each year at schools, churches, detention centers and recovery homes. His core message that we can be the product of our effort instills hope in those who feel overwhelmed by their circumstances. He is elated to bring that message to Stockton and Sacramento.