Zoom wasn’t a thing back when Frank Withrow was teaching within the Sacramento City Unified School District, had it been, he would have no doubt used the technology to connect his students with opportunities to expand their horizons.
The community icon was recently surprised on a Zoom call by former students, spanning his 30-plus years in local education, who wanted to share with him the impact he has had on their lives. Withrow is battling a resurgence of cancer and students say they wanted to “give him flowers now.”
The tributes to Withrow continued with video messages assembled by former student Camisha Abels James and a drive-by celebration spearheaded last Sunday by Lynette Hall. Such celebrations have been made popular during the coronavirus pandemic, as they allow people to mark special occasions while maintaining a social distance. Some 300 cars met up at Edward Harris, Jr. Middle School and the convoy drove to Withrow’s Elk Grove home where they held up signs, honked their horns and yelled out their love for him.
“Mr. Withrow was my vice principal from 1995-1999 at C.K McClatchy,” Ms. Hall shared.
“He led by example. He demonstrated to me and other students every day how excellence looked and behaved. He was always the best dressed person at the school. He came to school in a suit every single day. I cannot ever remember him not wearing one. This taught me about professionalism and how to handle business,” she continued.
At McClatchy High School, Withrow founded the African American Cultural Exchange Program that paired high schoolers with younger students that they taught Black culture to. He also served as chair of the United Black Student Unions of California (UBSUC) Advisory Board for 15 years.
Ms. Hall recalls how Withrow “forced” her to join the BSU and try out for cheerleading. She became captain and was the only Black cheerleader on the junior varsity squad.
“He would always say, ‘No matter what you do, being somebody should be your goal.’
Appropriately, Withrow read his poem of that name during the tribute, among others.
“It was a pleasure and honor to be present and pay homage to the elder that paved the way and laid (the) foundation for brothas like myself to deliver poetry and spoken word in the form of edutainment,” said fellow poet Chris Coon on Facebook.
The event also drew participation from Withrow’s beloved Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity who accepted gifts from members of the caravan and helped sell posters, T-shirts and hats from Withrow’s Reasons For Rhyme business. Withrow, also known as the “Middle Aged Rapper” and the “Kappa Rapper” has published more than 40 books, along with posters, calendars and educational raps and poems. On Sunday, he wore a shirt boasting his well-known “Ebony King” poem.
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer