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C h a p l a i n    P r e a c h e s    B l a c k    G l o r y

NBA Wizards Adviser Writes Book


by Denise Barnes

Joel A. Freeman has a lot to say about ancient Africa, racism and the future of black people – so much that he has co-written a book about those topics.

His thin tome, "Return to Glory: The Powerful Stirring of the Black Man," reads like the work of an outspoken Afro-centric black historian – which is surprising, since Mr. Freeman is the soft-spoken white chaplain for the NBA Washington Wizards professional basketball team.
"The inspiration for the book came while I was doing some consulting work (two years ago) for Tuscan dairy farms in Union, NJ," says Mr. Freeman, 43. "I met Don Griffin, who shared some information about ancient black history, and it just so impressed me."

Mr. Griffin, a black executive at Tuscan dairy farms, is the book’s co-author.

According to Mr. Freeman, Mr. Griffin shared with him a biblical "prophecy" in the 18th chapter of the Book of Isaiah that says the land around the River Nile will be the home of a "strong and mighty nation, a terror to all both far and near."

It demonstrates in the Bible that blacks were founders of the greatest civilizations," Mr. Griffin, 40, says of the Isaiah passage, adding that the 19th chapter "outlines and explains when and why the black man fell from that high pinnacle. It describes how he will return to a glory that is greater and more enduring than his ancient past."



Biblical, not necessarily historical studies figured prominently in Freeman’s early years. Born 43 years ago in Lewiston, Maine, he moved with his family in 1960 to Alberta, Canada, where he grew up.

At age 17, he left Canada to travel and eventually ended up at his sister’s home in Maine.

It was there that he began his formal Bible study. Mr. Freeman graduated from a bible school in southern, Maine, which he says has since closed.

In 1977, Mr. Freeman moved to this area and became chaplain for the NBA Washington Wizards (formerly the Washington Bullets) two years later. This year marks his 19th season.

As chaplain, he counsels the players, some of whom seem in need of his ministerial touch. In November, star player Juwan Howard was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He entered alcohol rehabilitation, and charges were not pursued. More recently, Wizard point guard Rod Strickland was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and disorderly conduct. He has pleaded not guilty.

"Sometimes when someone is in trouble, the instinct is for the person to hide and run away from help," Mr. Freeman says.

"What I do is let them know that I know what has happened, if it’s a DWI or something that’s in the press. I let them know that I’ve been thinking of praying for them and that I’m open to talk," he says.

Mr. Freeman holds a doctorate in counseling and lives in Severn, Maryland, with his wife, Shirley, and their four children. He serves as chaplain part time and runs The Freeman Institute™, his own leadership and communications consulting firm.


The importance of the historical data he and Mr. Griffin found in their research compelled them to write "Return to Glory," Mr. Freeman says.

The first part of the book was written by Mr. Griffin and explores ancient civilizations and contributions that blacks made to them. The second half, written by Mr. Freeman, deals with problems that confront black men about their black heritage," says Mr. Freeman.

However, some of the information he and Mr. Griffin offer in their book about ancient Egypt and other civilizations has long been disputed by various historians and critics of Afro-centric teachings.

It took the men a year to complete the 184-page book, which was published by Renaissance Productions Inc. in Woodbury, NJ. "Return to Glory" hit area bookstores in May. So far, 6,000 copies have been sold.

"It’s not as far-reaching as I’d like to see it," Mr. Freeman says.

He and Mr. Griffin are making radio and TV appearances to promote the book. Meanwhile, churches around the country around the country are using the book in their Sunday school classes, Mr. Freeman says.

"I am personally going to be putting the book in the hands of every NBA player in the league, with the idea that it will be an educational tool for them. Maybe they might want to give the books to young people in their spheres," he says.

He hopes the book offers young black males a sense of pride in what their ancestors accomplished and wants them to have hope for the future.

"If this book sparks just a few people, then it would be a smashing success," he says. "Our expectations are more on each individual becoming vision-driven, not anger-driven.

"Let’s hope also that whites will read it and use the book as a tool for creating deeper dialogue with African Americans," Mr. Freeman says.

His favorite chapter is "The Young Warriors," which deals with acceptance and taking personal responsibility for one’s mental state and resisting being drawn into despair.

Mr. Freeman says the book, in essence, provides a "road map to wholeness."

He says he and Mr. Griffin targeted black males ages 12 to 25 as their reading audience, they noticed that many books on black history were written on a 12th grade reading level.

"Our eyes were glazed over at such heady, high-level reading’" Mr. Freeman says, adding that he and Mr. Griffin sought to make their book "reader-friendly."

--Denise Barnes, The Washington Times – September 16, 1997


I would like to see RETURN TO GLORY as a film.

Seminar Program: "The Powerful Stirring of the Black Man"


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