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Tommy “Hawk” Long speaks to youth and their families at Greater Shiloh Baptist Church.

In front of a small crowd gathered at the Greater Shiloh Baptist Church on Saturday, Oct. 10, former Harlem Globetrotter Tommy “Hawk” Long gave an impassioned speech – a call for leadership, togetherness and thankfulness.

Rev. Carolyn S. Carey welcomed Long to Emporia, and thanked him for his attendance despite the rain that Carey said dampened attendance for the Youth Explosion event. Long has been a friend of the Carey family for decades.

The rain forced the event inside, where Long stood in front of parents and children and spoke about his life and lessons he wished to impart to the youth in attendance. Long, who was raised by a single mother in Durham, North Carolina, employed the children to be thankful for how hard their parents work to provide for them.

“Cherish the time you have with your parents,” Long said. “Don’t waste time wishing your parent was this person or that person.”

Likewise, Long challenged parents in the community to not only raise their own children, but to help grow other children in the community as well. He cited the many strong women that helped his mother raise him when she was working hard to provide for him on her own. Long said making change in the community is much easier when done as a team.

“In life, you can’t make it alone,” Long said. “At some point, you’re going to need somebody else.”

Long also described what he believes a good leader should look like, and referenced Carey as a great example.

“A good leader not only improves themselves,” he said, “but as they progress, they reach back and pull others up with them.”

Long said he hopes to come back to Emporia to host more community-building events, including youth basketball clinics similar to the ones he currently runs in Durham, where Long created the Community Initiative Project. The project is a non-profit program that works with youth and their families, helping with emotional, physical and education development.