"Suga Water" author, inspirational speaker to visit University of the Pacific
"Suga Water" author, activist and inspirational speaker Arshay Cooper will bring his hopeful message — "Be the product of your effort, not of your environment" — to youth and their mentors in Stockton and Sacramento, Nov. 1-5.
"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 Cooper describes the drug addicts in the West Side of Chicago building where he grew up. His life story is a testament to the truth of his message.
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.
"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 organizations. "They became the first all-black high school crew in the United States and, in the process, their lives were changed."
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 has coached the Chicago Youth Rowing Club and organized rallies for the Stop the Violence movement. He 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 rather than of our environment instills hope in those who feel overwhelmed by their circumstances.
In addition to stops at middle and high schools throughout the region, Cooper is scheduled to speak at several events that are free and open to the public:
- 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2 — Podesto Teen Impact Center, 725 North El Dorado Street, Stockton
- 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 — Vereschagin Alumni House, University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Avenue, Stockton
- 4 to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 — The Grand Salon (Library), University of the Pacific, 3200 Fifth Avenue, Sacramento