Shining a Light on Under-Appreciated Writers: Greg Eno and Damali Binta

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Shining a Light on Under-Appreciated Writers: Greg Eno and Damali Binta

Bleacher Report has allowed me to meet some of the most unique individuals—and supremely talented writers—I have ever come across.

 

Young, old, male, female, American, International. . . the diversity is absolutely astounding.

 

There’s Rob York, way over in Korea, my favorite author and a native of Paris, TN, less than 90 miles from my own hometown. He does things with words that I can only dream of.

 

Mary Jo Buchanan, the Queen of NASCAR writers here in the Bleachers, and a gracious soul who befriended me almost from Day One. It’s like going to your favorite aunt’s house for cookies and ice cream, with her homey and comfortable style.

 

J.C. Ayvazi, PJ Ross, and Blaine Spence (my West Coast brothers); “Vegas Rich” Marsh, living la vida loca in Las Vegas, by way of NYC; Bob Warja (my Midwest brother); and Stephen “Heartbeat of the Bronx” Meyer (my East Coast brother). Masters, all of them.

 

I love J.A. Allen and Karthika M., who are lyrically gifted and make following tennis into an art form, while Rajat Jain is analytical to an almost insane degree.

 

And of course, there is everyone’s friend (seemingly), AVR, whose enthusiasm could light up a small country. AVR, you inspired this article, by the way, with this piece.

 

Time would fail me if I went through the list of young guns, 18-and-under, who make me shake my head and marvel at their ability and energy.

 

Today though, I just wanted to take some time and shine a bright light on two extraordinary writers who don’t get so many page views and comments. Yet these individuals are so heartfelt and passionate that they truly deserve special attention:

 

First, meet Gregory S. Eno, 45, currently living in Madison Heights, MI (a suburb just north of Detroit).

 

Greg has been married to his wife, Sharon, since September 12, 1992, and they have one lovely daughter, Nicole, who is 16-years old.

 

Greg was born August 6, 1963 in Dearborn, MI, the son of Jack and Donna Eno. Though his father passed in 1996, Donna beat breast cancer about 10 years ago and is still around to encourage her son in his journalistic endeavors.

 

Greg has been a sports enthusiast almost as long as I have been alive; his first memories of sports date back to around 1970 and the Detroit Tigers.

 

“I have been following and/or covering sports since 1970, which means I’m closing in on 40 years of memories,” Eno informed me.

 

“The Tigers were the first Detroit sports team I ever saw in person,” Greg continued, “and I had a special affinity and attachment to their players, courtesy watching them on TV and listening to them on the radio.

 

“I have fond memories of my dad working in the yard on weekends and the Tigers' game being on the radio in the background.”

 

Greg went to college at Eastern Michigan University, graduating from there in 1985 with a Bachelors Degree in Communications. He still carries a love for his alma mater’s sports teams to this day.

 

“I live and die (mostly die) with my EMU Eagles (gag; I went there when they were known as the Hurons, and I’ll ALWAYS be a Huron!),” he commented.

 

“It’s hard to put any team ahead of my alma mater, no matter how dysfunctional their football and basketball programs are. I’m hoping the Ron English hire will pan out on the gridiron.”

 

Eno parlayed his degree in communications into a string of local television jobs.

 

“I began my post-college life working in local cable TV production, mainly as a producer and director,” he states. “I also produced and hosted a sports talk show from 1990-93 called The Sports Guys.

 

“(We) won a National Cable ACE Award in 1990 for directing (the) Best Local Talk Show in the country, Open Lines, a community affairs show.

 

“While in TV, I started meeting and interviewing celebrities, both in sports and in politics, entertainment, etc.”

 

He was let go in 1998, due to cost-cutting measures. He went into retail management, but he wasn’t happy. In 2003, the age-old adage that “behind every great man is a woman” led him to  begin pursuit of a once-dormant dream.

 

“I decided to pursue sports writing, thanks to the egging on of my wife.”

 

His career gained traction slowly but surely. He picks up the narrative:

 

“I started blogging and contributing to some websites in 2005,” he told me. “From January 2006 to March 2007, I was editor-in-chief and a columnist for Motor City Sports Magazine, which was a monthly publication based in the Detroit area.

 

“Sadly, the magazine ran out of money. But it was great experience and enabled me to both sharpen and hone my interviewing and editing skills.

 

“From April 2007 to December 2007 I was a contributing writer for Michigan In Play! Magazine, covering all sports.

 

“From January 2008 to January 2009 I did a one-year contract as managing editor for SET Magazine, as well as maintaining their website.”

 

Right now, the Gregonator (my pet nickname for Eno) is a free agent, struggling to follow his heart, and his dream.

 

He has covered his beloved Detroit Red Wings as a freelance working member of the media, securing press credentials for the Stanley Cup Finals despite not having the backing of any major media outlet—a most impressive accomplishment.

 

He contributes to www.thebaseballpage.com and blogs regularly (www.GregEno.com, www.thegregger63.wordpress.com,) and co-hosts The Knee Jerks every Monday night on Blog Talk Radio (www.blogtalkradio.com/thekneejerks).

 

Greg is the most amazing game recapper. In his hands, a dull pepper hockey or baseball game becomes witty, profound and educational, all at the same time. He is incorporating the styles of many of journalism’s greats.

 

“I’m a big fan of the Detroit News’ Jerry Green,” he acknowledged, “who I’ve enjoyed reading for decades. And, I’m proud to say, I’ve gotten to meet and know Jerry in recent years, and he’s a big fan of my work, which is awesome.

 

“My influences have been Jim Murray, the late, great writer from Los Angeles, and Detroit writers like Charlie Vincent and George Puscas.”

 

Don’t be fooled; Greg doesn’t want to be a blogger forever; not with his background.

 

“I would like to secure a regular, full-time job in the media, whether for a website or a print publication—or at the very least, have so much freelance work that I won’t have to worry about monthly bills!” he admits.

 

“I also have some movie script ideas floating around in my head that I’d like to get around to writing.

 

“Our daughter gets good grades and is definite college material, so the sooner the better!”

 

But Eno also wants to pass on what he has learned to the Bleacher Report community.

 

“I like to think that my rather advanced age (almost 46) lends itself well to B/R,” he says, “because I’m able to transfer some of my memories and life experiences to my work, where I hope some of the younger readers will appreciate it. I’m a big fan of using history to relate to things going on today.

 

“It’s a new world now in terms of journalism, with the explosion of the Internet.”

 

He is a perfect example of taking advantage of living in the Information Age.

 

 

 

And then, there’s Professor Jacquelyn Brannon Giles, aka Damali Binta, her professional pseudonym. She is a professor of mathematics at a two-year college near Houston, TX.

 

Professor Giles has lived a most extraordinary life.

 

She was born October 9, 1943 to Rev. Edsel Warren Brannon, Sr., and Clotiel Grimmett Brannon, the eldest of six, in Houston (though she has not lived in the area all of her life; more on that later.)

 

She is a widow. She bore her late husband, Stephen Hopkins Giles, two children: a son, Karume Kanyama Giles (who still resides in Houston, TX); and a girl, Alisha Giles Small, an economist married to a mathematics teacher (Spencer) in Cleveland, OH.

 

Karume has a daughter who plays high school basketball, and Alisha is the mother of two, making Jackie a grandmother three times over.

 

She once told me on a comment thread that being a grandmother had made her wiser and more discerning; she will hear no argument from me on that subject.

 

Sometimes, men assume that most women don’t really care about sports; this site dispels that notion most emphatically. Jackie has loved sports since her childhood.

 

“When I was a child, there was an annual event that my family loved to attend on Thanksgiving Day,” she explained. “It was the 'Turkey Day Classic' between Jack Yates High School and Phillis Wheatley High School. My mother attended Yates, and my father attended Wheatley.

 

“We would dress up, pile up in the car and attend that game in Houston, Texas, located on Scott Street, near Texas Southern University. Football became my favorite sport because of the spirit of those Thanksgiving games.

 

“Integration interrupted the occurrence of those games, but I will never forget the wonderful spirit that permeated the atmosphere of the African-American community during those pre-integration days.”

 

She loved basketball, too (“My first boyfriend was a basketball star at Fidelity Manor High School in Galena Park, Texas,” she said), as well as biking, fishing, tennis, and track.

 

The Professor showed her discipline and thoroughness from a very young age.

 

“I enjoyed biking in my neighborhood which was one of the first suburban areas in Greater Houston,” she began. “My neighborhood was for homeowners.

 

“There were 16 streets, bounded by Sage Drive and Bank Drive. As a young girl, I would ride my bicycle around each and every street in my neighborhood.”

 

Such determination has led her to earn an impressive cache’ of college degrees.

 

First, there was a Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics and English, earned from Texas Southern University, in 1966.

 

Next, she added a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics, at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, three years later.

 

She earned her first Masters degree in Arts, Secondary Education, with an emphasis in mathematics, once again form Texas Southern University (1974).

 

Remarkably, she picked up a Masters of Science (Pure Mathematics), from Texas A & M University-College Station, more than a decade later, in 1986.

 

And while she was on a roll, she completed her Doctoral Studies in Mathematics and Interdisciplinary Engineering, also from Texas A & M University–College Station, over the period of 1986-'89.

 

Professor Giles has applied her considerable knowledge in diverse, profound ways.

 

Jackie realized very quickly that her first job, at Merill Lynch, utilized her college degree but not her real passion.

 

“My job in a corporate planning division was challenging but no other African- Americans were around me,” she recounts. “We only talked about money, trends and commodities.

 

“I realized that I am a communicator and that I needed to be in touch with people, and not just 'things' and money.”

 

While at Polytechnic, her life of transforming the minds of others began in earnest.

 

“John Work, Jr. saw my gift and hired me as an instructor of mathematics,” the story begins. “The bridge program was a part of State University of New York–Stony Brook. The classes were held on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue, near the Apollo Theater.

 

“My perceptions were refined in Harlem, and my involvement with social action and community service began to expand from the day I began teaching in the historic Theresa Hotel, in Harlem.”

 

Now, she takes delight in not only enlightening young minds, but in challenging them, as well.

 

“One day in class, I asked, ‘Can a man change?’” the Professor recalled. “Then I asked, ‘And if or when a man changes, will the world and media record the change as vigorously as the media storm that raged about his or her failures or demise?’

 

“I know of a couple of NFL players who were in unusual situations more than 38 years ago. I know of one who has paid the price, done his time, been redeemed, and has been further wounded by “media madness.”

 

"I want to tell the story of a journey of those who I have observed who changed, but their testimony of change and deliverance has been overlooked.”

 

Jackie Giles uses poetry to explain how she has come through the harrowing twists of life with her effervescent attitude intact. She lives by a simple credo.

 

“’Out of my pain comes my creativity’ is my own motto, which is birthed out of my journey,” explains Jackie. “Out of my deliverance by God’s grace and mercy, comes my joy.

 

“I am poetic because I am grateful. The words flow from me so as to express that joy and to let it “rain” on others.  As it rains on them, it brings blessings. The dry, hard, but fertile ground in their lives is softened by the gems of wisdom God has given to me, for the sole purpose of sharing with others.”

 

She can weave a powerful narrative of Scripture into the conversation, without sounding preachy or condescending. Witness this stirring passage from the Professor:

 

“Paul, a man of letters, used an athletic context to describe life’s

experiences. A quote:

 

1 Cor. 9:24, “You know that many runners take part in a race, but only

one of them wins the prize. Run then in such a way as to win the prize.”

 

“One thing I know, Leroy and B/ R family, I am a track star, running a race.

I expect a prize and I have a purpose. Finally, I must run with perseverance

'the race marked out for me.' And if my participating in this athletic

journey in life has a magnetic quality and attracts you, as Naomi’s life

attracted Ruth, in the Book of Ruth, then do as Ruth did. Ruth followed

Naomi because of the 'chesed' she witnessed in Naomi’s life. It is called

God’s love.”

 

 

To share a forum with Damali Binta here on Bleacher Report is an experience that I would highly recommend! Read her work, and you will be inspired by her words and her incomparable spirit.

 

She writes about her team—“The Oakland Raiders, my favorite professional football team, gave one of my college classmates a chance to rise up in life”—and muses about the deeper meaning of events that we see in sports.

 

Every week, she reads her work to her 86-year-old mother—the article as well as the comments! That's one reason we should think before we blast people in the comment thread, because we never know who is reading or listening.

 

The Professor even explained the shape and construction of a football in a most entertaining way! I was absolutely astounded and enraptured at the same time.

 

For a heartwarming story about her life, click here. You won’t be disappointed.

 

With either one of these under-appreciated writers, just go to their profile page (Eno, Binta) and start clicking. You’ll find something that you will both enjoy and learn from.

 

 

Professor Giles, aka Damali Binta, forwarded one of her original poems to me. Sadly, I did not have the space to place it in this article. I will attempt to place it somewhere that I can hyperlink to it. Or, you can contact her and I am sure that she will gladly share it with you!

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