Ishmael Reed: Finding a lifetime of activity at the Y
At the age of six or seven internationally known author Ishmael Reed became a member of the Michigan Avenue YMCA in Buffalo, New York. His parents both worked during the day and the YMCA provided day-care for low income parents. He has vivid memories of the myriad of indoor and outdoor creative, educational and fun activities the YMCA daily provided for the children.
In 1955 when he was a high school junior, he was presented with the opportunity to travel outside of the U.S. when the Y staff raised the money to send a group of teens to Europe for three weeks. “It changed my life,” says Ishmael, “It was the first time I saw beyond what I observed at school and in my immediate surroundings. It opened up to me the possibilities of multi-racial societies where there was no racial profiling.” Ishmael says the Y gave him somewhere to go and provided him with mentors.
He credits the YMCA (as well as bebop) with keeping him out of trouble. It provided a place for recreation and nurtured him intellectually and creatively. It was at the Y where he first learned to play piano and he is now currently working on his Jazz CD “For All We Know.”
Over time, the demands of life took Ishmael away from the Y; however, in 2000 he returned for health reasons joining the Downtown Berkeley YMCA. Now, thanks to working out at the Y, he is in overall great health and his blood pressure is under control.