Sunday, July 29, 2001

Players' group is a United Nations in miniature

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] James Edmond of Corryville hones his table tennis skills at the Xavier University Fieldhouse.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        Jim Bracht, a tall, gray-bearded retiree with an admitted resemblance to Santa Claus, considers himself a student of diversity, one table tennis game at a time.

        Mr. Bracht has been a member of the Cincinnati Table Tennis Association for more than 10 years. Two to three nights a week, in the field house at Xavier University, 20 to 40 players from a wide variety of backgrounds, nationalities and ethnicities practice together and prepare for tournaments.

        The college students and professors, law enforcement officers and firefighters, homemakers and computer techies come from all over the Tristate and the world.

       Underground Railroad Center Freedom Fridays: “Why Should We Trust the Justice System?” noon at Visitors Center, 38 Fountain Square Plaza; and 7 p.m. at St. Anthony Church, 5122 Chapman St., Madisonville. Free.
       Three Square Music Foundation Legends Banquet: 7-10:30 p.m. at The Phoenix, 812 Race St. Awards area men and women of achievement, “hometown heroes” and “emerging talent” and features children performers. Tickets: 731-3227.
       Over-the-Rhine Community Festival: Washington Park, noon to 6 p.m. Free. Includes children's talent contest, neighborhood art show, voter registration. To help or donate, call 381-4242.
       Clovernook Center for the Blind: Open house at historic Cary Cottage, 7000 Hamilton Ave. in North College Hill, and adjacent Trader Historical Garden; 1-4 p.m. Donations. Information: 522-3860.
        “I'm a white man from Delhi. Where else am I going to get to know people from Brazil, Iran, Latvia or China?” Mr. Bracht said.

        The group has worked and played together for years, he said; people respect each other as competitors, help each other develop as players, and hear each other out.

        After the April unrest, Mr. Bracht said he was surprised to hear the diverse opinions of the table tennis group's several African-American members about racial profiling. He didn't realize that for some, advocating racial healing put them in conflict with others pushing for change.

        “There was some passionate discussion,” he said. “Some of the African-American firefighters were strongly against what the police were doing, but a reverend was taking a more moderate stance, saying he wants to see healing.”

        Some players told tales of family members fleeing their oppressive governments, trying to compare that with racial profiling American-style.

        But just as talk is varied and spicy, the groups' regular meals together are surprising and downright exotic, he added, giving potlucks and cookouts new meaning.


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