Tag: Aaron Maybin

FEATURE: Aaron Maybin, NFL Linebacker Turned Art Teacher and Activist, Gives Back to Kids in Baltimore

Maybin, talks to students at “Gallery Night,” an end of year art showcase at Matthew A. Henson Elementary School. (MARY F. CALVERT FOR ESPN)

via theundefeated.com

Aaron Maybin was an All-America linebacker at Penn State University and was drafted 11th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2009. He played four seasons in the NFL for the Bills and New York Jets before retiring in 2014. He has since turned full-time to his art, chronicling his hometown’s challenges with poverty and crime through painting, photography and poetry, and he works as a teacher in Baltimore schools. Last winter, he became the outspoken face of outrage after many of Baltimore schools went without heat during extreme cold. He was written a book, Art Activism, which chronicles Maybin’s journey.

Here, as told to ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg, Maybin tells about his path from a life of football to working on behalf of kids from his neighborhood, how he connects with students and why he doesn’t see himself as a hero.


When I was younger, football gave me an identity.

Growing up in communities like the one I grew up in, West Baltimore, you’re always fighting for your identity. From the time you’re born until you’re grown, you’re literally inundated with stories of how your safety is always in jeopardy and how everybody – from your parents to people in the community to folks at your church – is just so hell-bent and focused on keeping you safe.

So many of us in those neighborhoods are so angry, so furious, at everything. At the world. I lost my mother at 6 years old. I was mad at God. I was mad at my family. I was mad at everything. In those kinds of environments, especially for young kids of color, people look to attach themselves to something greater.

I had been an artist my whole life, but when I was younger, it was not cool for you to just be like, “Yeah I’m an artist. I make things.” Football was the first thing I did and I excelled at to the level where I gained acceptance and admiration from everybody that saw me do my thing. It was like an outlet.

Football was the first space that I was afforded where you’re not penalized for your anger. You’re celebrated for it. You knock somebody out of a game and people give you praise. They know you as this guy not to be messed with, to be respected and celebrated.

It wasn’t until I got older that I didn’t want my identity to be tied to a game anymore.

I can look at football now with a certain amount of nostalgia and not be too heavily tied to it, because at the end of the day, I stopped being tied to the game.

It was probably around college at Penn State that I realized there’s something wrong with how we were being conditioned as athletes. Even as great a coach as Joe Paterno was, he had some deep-seated issues that were rooted in race and patriarchy and bigotry that reared their heads in how we were handled as players and as men.

The idea that we couldn’t have facial hair, for example. If it was past like a five o’clock shadow, then you would get penalized. If you had locks or an Afro or something like that, he would be like, “You’ve got to do something with that.” Guys would get it braided or twisted, but as soon as he would see it, he would be like, “Cut it.” If you look at people like myself, LaVar Arrington, Jared Odrick, NaVorro Bowman, basically every black player who went to Penn State, you see them leave and go through an almost Rastafarian physical transformation where we all grow our beards out. We all either get our hair in locks or twists or cornrows.

College years are very pivotal years, right? Throughout the same time that you’re just starting to learn about your blackness or where you fit in the larger society, you’re starting to learn about historical context of your roots. You have somebody who you look at and revere as your leader who tells you that there’s something wrong with you. That there’s something unacceptable about the natural things that make you who you are, that there’s something wrong with your person.

I didn’t realize how problematic it was back then. I was young. I didn’t really understand how deep those things went and where they were coming from. I just knew that those were the guidelines that I had to abide by. We’ve got to ask ourselves why a lot more.

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Ex-NFL Player and Teacher Aaron Maybin Raises Money to Keep Freezing Baltimore Public School Students Warm

Former NFL linebacker-turned-educator Aaron Maybin has raised money and national awareness about Baltimore students in desperate need of heat and warm gear.

Last week, Maybin, who currently works as a teacher at Baltimore’s Matthew A. Henson Elementary School, shared on Twitter a video of young students complaining about the frigid conditions inside of their classroom. “I’m super, super cold,” said one boy. “Yesterday, I had frostbite,” revealed another little boy who appeared to be wearing a winter coat. “This is unacceptable,” wrote Maybin as the caption of the tweet, which went viral.

In another tweet, the former player and Baltimore native expressed outrage about the way taxpayer dollars are allocated and prioritized.

According to BaltimoreBrew.com, the temperature inside of his classroom hovered around 40 degrees. “How would your kids concentrate if you sent them to school in a refrigerator for eight hours? With failing lighting. Two classes in one room?” Maybin told the site. “We tried our best as educators. They tried their best as scholars. But they are dealing with a lot already. And now they are supposed to learn in the dark and in the cold.” He added that about half of the school has been without electricity since the beginning of the month. “I’m told it was due to nobody being there during the holidays to make sure the heat stayed on and pipes didn’t freeze.”

In addition to voicing concern about the horrid conditions, the 29-year-old artist and activist also encouraged his Twitter followers to donate to a GoFundMe campaign, titled We Need Heat In Our Public Schools, that aimed to raise $20,000 to purchase 600 space heaters and winter clothes for students.

“Baltimore City Public Schools are currently operating with an inadequate heating system,” reads the GoFundMe page. “Students are still required to attend classes that are freezing and expected to wear their coats to assist in keeping them warm. How can you teach a child in these conditions?”

On Thursday, Maybin tweeted that the page raised over $8,000 after he shared a link on Twitter. That same day, he shared a photo of himself picking up clothing and other donations for the children. By Monday afternoon, the page had raised more than $76,000.

In response to the crisis, the Baltimore City Public Schools system released a statement on Sunday assuring that the heating issues were addressed late last week when city schools were closed. The statement also promised that “every student will be in a safe, warm learning space, or the school won’t be open.”

Source: http://www.blackenterprise.com/aaron-maybin-freezing-students-baltimore/