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Inspiring ‘Crawford 18’ teach us about far more than football

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They’re The Crawford 18, a group of kids scattered by the global winds who found purpose and passion through a game rooted in American soil.

They’re from Somalia and Vietnam, Mexico and Cambodia, linked by blocking and tackling. They help form the fabric of a high school that speaks, at last count, more than 50 languages — a fascinating soup of faces, dialects and world views.

In shoulder pads, they’re all Colts.

And despite being undersized, outgunned, resource challenged, with almost no collective history or boyhood experiences in football, The Crawford 18 stand a logic-defying 3-0.

If sports teaches lessons, what is Crawford High School teaching us?

“For these kids to be 3-0, it’s answering that call of disbelief,” said Kelcie Butcher, Crawford’s tireless athletic director. “How is this group of kids, boys who’ve never played football before they got to high school, who are duct-taping their shoes together, doing this? Really? We think they’re going to compete?

“It’s answering that with, yeah, we can compete.”

Crawford’s football team reveals the most compelling truths about underdogs and stacked odds and perseverance measured in heart and sweat.

The program has played without a home field for three seasons, piling into buses over and again for two-hour trips into the desert. Until last season, the team wiggled into shoulder pads purchased in 2001. Week after week, opponents routinely plant at least twice as many players on their sideline.

Eight of the Colts start on both sides of the ball. Five or six almost never come off the field. Wide receiver and safety Ali Musa, who has generated interest from Dixie State, also returns punts and kickoffs. He’s missed all of a half-dozen plays in 144 minutes of football.

Running back and linebacker Keyshawn Dante Walker has missed even fewer plays — two at last count.

“It takes heart, like a lot of it,” Walker said. “If you have heart, you can play both ways.”

The most meaningful rewards in life require obstacles and patience. They demand struggle and crushing failure, stiff-armed.

The Colts nearly lost football in 2012, coach Mike Wright’s first season. When he stepped onto the practice field, 16 kids looked back at him. That wasn’t nearly enough to field a varsity and junior-varsity team.

The season before, the Colts finished 1-9. The season before that: winless after forfeiting the final four games because of a lack of players.

“The athletic director came to me at the time and said, if we don’t get this fixed, we’re either going to cancel the season or go to only a JV season or go to eight-man,” Wright recalled. “I said, ‘Give me two days and let me see what I can do.’

“I went to the streets. I went to the phone books. I got as many kids as I could.”

Wright pieced together another 18 kids to keep Crawford’s football heartbeat alive. The following season, the Colts won a school-record 12 games.

On Oct. 20, the team finally will play on its home field, an identity-building, ours-forever place after suiting up for “home” games at Hoover and Lincoln. This is what The Crawford 18 waited for, worked for, longed for.

“I’ve been doing this for three and a half years now, finding practice fields, playing on the road and riding a yellow bus,” Wright said. “I’m seeing yellow in my dreams.

“I’m sure I’m going to have a giant smile and the hairs on my arms are going stand up. I might have a couple of tears even. Who knows? It’s going to be pretty intense.”

Crawford’s campus courtyard feels like a little like a Benetton ad, without the crass commercialization. Navigating all those languages and family backgrounds means it’s tricky to sell yearbooks or convince parents to pry precious dollars to attend a Friday football game.

Diversity is Crawford’s challenge, as well as its strength.

Butcher sees Somali signs in the neighborhood surrounding the school. She can tell you that those who speak a tongue known as Karen come from an area nestled inside of Burma. She understands the complexity of Farsi amid the field goals.

Alex, I’ll take World Languages for $400.

“The diversity on this campus fluctuates on what’s happen in the global scheme of things,” Butcher said. “Right now, there’s a lot of unrest in Tanzania and the Congo, so we’re getting a lot of refugees from that part of the world.

“It ebbs and flows. You can see what areas are having major issues by what types of students start to enroll here.”

The list of languages Butcher quickly cobbled together during a 10-minute scan of the 1,130-member student body covers two and a half pages.

Point to something on a page, like Kizigua, and Butcher connects the dots.

“Those kids are from Kenyan refugee camps,” she said. “It’s a tribal dialect.”

Acclimating all of those divergent worlds to simply exist and move forward at one school proves challenging. Toss the job of building a football program among students with little long-term connection to the sport, well, is something else altogether.

The results, though, have been nothing short of remarkable.

“We like to call ourselves a melting pot,” said Niko Perry, a senior running back and linebacker. “We accept everybody. Our team isn’t driven by winning. Our drive is to prove ourselves.

“… I think I’d be a little lost without football. The football team is everything to me. It’s like my second family. Everyone is, like, connected. We’re all brothers.”

The more you listen, the more you realize football allows The Crawford 18 to teach us some life lessons along the way.

Walk around Crawford with Butcher, the school’s relentless, smiling glue, and you begin to understand the critical importance of maintaining and nourishing these teams.

A girl bounces toward her with a sheet of paper with signatures. She wants to play volleyball. “Can I participate now?”

Butcher smiles and, without saying a word, offers a high-five. The girl glows.

It’s so hard to keep up at Crawford. It’s so essential that they do.

“It’s very overwhelming,” said Butcher, revealing moist, pink eyes. “Sometimes I feel like I’m pulling teeth. But when you get kids to be involved, that’s what keeps you going.

“When you see the look on their face when they walk in and they’ve gone from a C to an A on their math test because they did extra tutoring. And they’re beaming because they actually did it. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

That’s why football at Crawford, on life support just before this class of seniors had the chance to step on the field, means so much in a place where the game used to mean absolutely nothing.

“In spite of the fact that we haven’t had a home field for three years, in spite of the fact that we’ve been practicing on a field that’s rutted with gopher holes, in spite of the fact that we don’t have kids that come to us with Pop Warner experience, this group of boys and coaches are able to put something together,” Butcher said.

Something worldly and wonderful.

Crawford Aims for 4-0

The Crawford High School football team started last season 3-0 before falling to El Cajon Valley. The team failed to win a game the rest of the season.

Coach Mike Wright said this senior-dominated team is stronger as it again takes a 3-0 record into Friday’s matchup with El Cajon.

The Colts, with a core varsity roster consisting of just 18 players, will benefit from the return of its top defender. Jaden Sanders, who led the league in tackles last season, makes his season debut after sitting out because of injury.

The kickoff at Hoover High is scheduled for 4 p.m., because lights will not be available for the game.

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Diaspora

The Democratic Party candidates for Senate : ‘Landlord legislator’ faces 2 challenges – Kayse Jama and Shemia Fagan

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The Democratic Party candidates for Senate District 24 visited Rockwood to discuss the issues facing their constituents and answer audience questions ahead of the May 15 primary.

Incumbent Sen. Rod Monroe was joined by his two primary challengers Kayse Jama and Shemia Fagan. The event was hosted by the Multnomah County Democrats on Wednesday night, Jan. 17, at the Rosewood Initiative, 16126 S.E. Stark St. The candidates spoke before an engaged crowd of about 60 voters, who clapped and cheered throughout the evening.

District 24 encompasses east Portland, including parts of the Centennial neighborhood, and north Clackamas County.

Monroe is a retired teacher and co-chairman of the Ways and Means Education subcommittee. His top priority is to stop teacher layoffs, reduce class sizes and improve nutrition options for students. He also is working to improve transportation safety and efficiency, and keep drivers under the influence off the roads. Monroe, who first claimed a seat in the Legislature more than 40 years ago, has championed health and safety regulations.

Jama is a community-based leader who was born in Somalia. As an immigrant to the United States, he wants to support those in achieving the “American Dream.” He is an advocate for those experiencing poverty, displaced workers, women, people of color, native people, immigrants and refugees, the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities. One of his main focuses is bringing more diversity into positions of power within the community.

Fagan is a former representative who served two terms in the Oregon House before stepping down last year to focus on her family and career as an employment lawyer. She also has served on the David Douglas School Board. Fagan has worked on sidewalk and safety improvements for East Portland streets and tenant protection legislation. Her two main goals are securing more affordable housing and protecting people’s access to healthcare.

Audience questions

The main portion of the debate consisted of the candidates addressing questions from the people who came to hear them:

How does taking financial support affect campaigns?

Jama: We need to remove money from our politics if we want a true democracy.

Monroe: I have voted for every attempt at campaign reform. I have never traded my vote for anything — ever. There are no strings attached to any dollars given to my campaign.

Fagan: Democracies function on principals of accountability. Working people and parents can’t spend half their time raising money.

What are your plans for public transit?

Monroe: We need North-South bus routes in the outer Portland area. TriMet has assured me they will put those routes in place with the funding they have received.

Fagan: Public transit is an incredible opportunity. Bigger freeways don’t solve traffic problems, so being smart and not passing the cost along to the people we are trying to help is critical.”

Jama: Transit has to be accessible and affordable for all people. It’s time for corporations to pay their fair share. One thing proposed is tolls, but that means someone displaced from Portland will now have to pay to use the roads to get to work.

How do you plan to support kids in poverty?

Jama: 60,000 kids are homeless in this state. We have to work hard to support the families struggling to pay their services and find housing.

Monroe: I have been responsible for childhood and women’s rights programs. I was the author of three major nutrition programs, because these kids get their nutrition from our schools.

Fagan: Small class sizes and after-school programs are when teachers can see when kids need more support. We also have to better fund summer programs, because that is when children in poverty fall further behind.

How would you deal with addiction treatment?

Fagan: This is a crisis in our state, and when I was in the legislature we passed the good Samaritan law so someone can stay and help a person going through an overdoes without facing charges.

Jama: We need to treat addiction as a public health issue. It’s not a criminal charge, and we need to stop treating it as one.

Monroe: Mental health addiction on opioids is a national problem, not just an Oregon one. We need more mental health facilities.

How will you engage with diversity?

Jama: This is an easy one for me. I have brought diverse communities of immigrants and people of color together to build a strong movement.

Monroe: Our neighborhoods are becoming more diverse, which I think is a great thing.

Fagan: Even the strongest among us is no replacement for proportional representation for people of color.

Why are you running?

Monroe: I am running because of experience, which makes a difference. I have a history of working across the aisle to get things done.

Fagan: Too many of us are fighting for the stability of a normal life, and the senate has become a place where progressive ideas go to die. As a mother of two kids, I cannot wait another day for the senate to do better.

Jama: I remember trying to advocate in Salem and seeing how it is broken. I am mad as hell and want to make sure we build people’s power in this community.

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Diaspora

White men in bomb plot won’t get more Trump voters on jury, after judge denies request

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A judge on Wednesday said no to three Kansas residents who requested to have Trump voters on their jury as they’re tried for attempting to bomb a mosque and a Somali refugee community.

Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen were denied their request to include voters from a Trump-voting region in Kansas in their jury pool. The three men will be tried in the city of Wichita for plotting to use truck bombs in an apartment complex with a Somali refugee population and a mosque on the day after the 2016 presidential election, in Garden City, Kansas.

The jury pool will draw from Wichita and Hutchinson, more urban areas than Garden City, but Wright, Stein and Allen wanted people who “live in rural areas and are more politically conservative,” according to High Plains Public Radio.
They asked to draw from 28 counties in Dodge City, located in western Kansas. District Judge Eric Melgren said that their request did not have a legal basis, and they did not show that the current jury pool areas would discriminate against Republicans.

The men are charged with conspiracy against civil rights and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and they have pleaded not guilty. Their defense lawyers allege the men were exercising their free speech rights and right to bear arms.

The thinking behind the request, according to the lawyer, was that one area’s residents have different beliefs and would be able to understand the men’s motives. In one area, two-thirds of residents voted for Trump, and in the other area the men wanted to pool from, three-fourths of residents voted for the Republican, according to Mercury News.

The men were part of a group connected to the “Kansas Security Force,” a local militia group, prosecutors said. According to prosecutors and a wiretap transcript they obtained, Wright said he wanted the attack on Somalis in Kansas to “wake people up,” the publication added.

At the time, the government said that setting that precedent for the jury pool would “wreak havoc” and open a “dangerous door” to similar jury pool requests. The trial, which was scheduled to start in February, is set to begin on March 19 in Wichita, according to the Associated Press

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Columbus, Ohio

Judge set to sentence Ohio man who plotted US attacks

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COLUMBUS — A federal judge on Friday is scheduled to sentence an Ohio man who plotted to kill military members in the U.S. following a delay in the case when a previous judge withdrew.

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who was born in Somalia but came to the U.S. as a child, was arrested in 2015 and pleaded guilty to plotting those attacks after becoming radicalized in Syria. The attacks were never carried out.

The government said Mohamud became a citizen to obtain a U.S. passport. He bought a ticket to Greece with a stop in Turkey, where he disembarked before going to Syria, prosecutors said in court documents. They said he never intended to go to Greece.

Prosecutors, who are seeking a 23-year sentence, said Mohamud wanted to travel to Texas and capture three or four soldiers and execute them. They said Mohamud, now 26, was trained in Syria and tried to cover up dangerous terrorist activity.

Mohamud and his lawyer, in asking for leniency, have said Mohamud had realized “the immoral and illegal nature of terrorist ideology” and abandoned any plans to engage in terrorism.

Mohamud’s attorney, Sam Shamansky, is asking Judge Michael Watson to consider the light sentence a federal judge in Minnesota handed down in 2016 to a Minnesota man.

In that case, Abdullahi Yusuf, just 20 at the time of sentencing, was convicted of conspiring to join the Islamic State in Syria. Yusuf, who cooperated with prosecutors and testified against others, was sentenced to time served in jail of 21 months, plus two decades of supervised release.

Mohamud was originally scheduled to be sentenced in August. Judge James Graham started that hearing, but in a surprise move, he announced he was delaying it to gather more information, including Mohamud’s current state of mind.

Graham also said he wanted information about possible treatment programs for Mohamud during and after prison.

Graham ordered a psychological evaluation of Mohamud and set a new sentencing date. But in December, Graham abruptly withdrew from the case without explanation.

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