FSN's one-hour documentary series, BEYOND THE GLORY, continues with a new episode featuring the legendary Jim Brown. Known for his exceptional skills on the football field, Brown has also made it his life's mission to stand up for what he believes in, even in the face of adversity. BTG: Jim Brown, which delves into the many achievements of this running back, actor and community activist, airs Sun., Sept. 26 at 8:00 PM local.
Accomplished actor Danny Glover narrates the special episode. In addition to his work in such important films as The Color Purple and Mandela, Glover is a full-time activist supporting such causes as stopping the AIDS crisis in Africa and Brown's Amer-I-Can foundation.
Jim Brown was raised by his great-grandmother in Georgia until he was eight and then by his mother in an affluent suburb of New York. Brown has always known what it was like to be without a father, but instead of dwelling on it, Brown used the skills he had to excel in high school athletics, including basketball and football. He went on to attend Syracuse University where he experienced his first taste of racism at the hands of his football coach. But he persevered, becoming an All-American in football and lacrosse. In his senior season, Brown scored six touchdowns in one game, led his team to the Cotton Bowl and scored three more.
From there, Brown was drafted in the first round of the 1956 draft by the Cleveland Browns, where he went on to play fullback for nine seasons. There, he led the league in rushing eight times averaging more than five yards a carry. And despite several injuries, Brown never missed a game. In 1964, he led the Browns to the NFL championship and the following season, was voted MVP after leading his team again to the title game. But at the end of that season, Brown shocked the world and retired at age 29 to pursue a career in acting.
By the 1970's Brown was breaking new ground as a leading man in Hollywood. But by the 1980's had moved past making movies and was headed towards something more fulfilling. Throughout his life, despite achieving great success in football and in film, Brown came to understand that fulfillment came through helping others. So he dedicated his life to standing up for what he believed in, especially for those who could not stand up for themselves.
As an athlete, Brown's teammates looked up to him, knowing that when issues arose, he would stand with them and support them. When Muhammad Ali refused military induction on religious grounds, Brown organized other prominent athletes to stand by his side. And in the 1960's, he created the Negro Industrial and Economic Union… which developed 400 black-owned businesses in the Cleveland area. So it was no surprise that after leaving the glamour of Hollywood in the 1980's, Brown had turned his attention to keep the peace on the streets below, where gang violence was raging.
In 1988, he founded Amer-I-Can, an educational organization designed to promote peace and self-determination within gang communities. He regularly visited prisons, speaking candidly with inmates and creating bonds that would positively affect and change their lives. He also opened his door to anyone who would accept help and by 1989, his home became the meeting ground for the first major truce talks among rival gangs. He was making a positive impact on the community and was saving countless lives.
In 1999, after losing a close friend, Brown became deeply withdrawn. His depression turned to anger, climaxing with a domestic incident where Brown punched out the windows of his car. Shocked by his outburst, his wife called the police and soon after, the DA's office charged him with domestic terrorism.
Despite being acquitted of the terrorism charge, he was found guilty of vandalism and was given a choice of serving community service or going to jail. A proud man at the age of 66, he chose jail and was incarcerated. Four months later, he was released and with a fresh perspective on life behind bars, Brown returned to his crusade against gang violence and to his foundation, Amer-I-Can, dedicated to improving the lives of others. Today, Amer-I-Can operates in prisons and public schools in sixteen states with an extremely successful track record.
Those interviewed include: wife Monique Brown, daughter Kimberly Brown, gang counselor Aquelle Sherrills, former gang members Kurt Bonner, Antoine Monroe and Ronnie Barron, former convict Michael Monzano, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Civil Rights attorney Connie Rice, Amer-I-Can regional directors Warren Chavers and Dean Renfrow and community director Bo Taylor, friend Bill Russell, friend James Ingram, former NFL running back Ricky Watters, high school coach Ed Walsh, former Browns teammates John Wooten and Walter Beach
Excerpts from the documentary:
Jim Brown (on his crusade to promote peace within gang communities and prison inmates): "It's education, it's taking control of yourself, its working collectively for another race and having a piece of the pie by understanding yourself and understanding how to function within the system."
Brown: "You cannot have people with no hope of inclusion. But through a person feeling that they're cared about and getting some fundamentals and their self-esteem coming up, you can create miracles."
Brown (on football): "I never got fulfillment from a football game. I was happy to have succeeded in that game, but it never fulfilled me. I was always more fulfilled when someone really cared about me."
Brown (on his formation of the Negro Industrial and Economic Union): "All of our leaders were talking about kneeling and singing and praying and shooting and whatever. And I'm saying well if we don't have economic development and we don't concentrate on that, then we're not going to ever have any freedom anyway."
Brown (on racism): "Everything starts with the legacy of slavery and discrimination and racism. And that always burned in me. I totally disliked the concept that someone thought they were better than me. And I never accepted the substitutes for that, the cheering in the Cleveland Brown stadium, but you can't go to a restaurant. So I encouraged economic development. And that was my way of fighting."
Connie Rice: "There is no bigger problem than the annihilation of the underclass which is what James has dedicated his life to stopping."
James Ingram (on Brown): "He's not like a black leader, because he's not trying to lead the black. He's trying to lead the oppressed."
Bill Russell (on Brown): "He knows how to be a friend. Mostly people that are well meaning don't know how. But he does."