Ransford Brempong made his name on the hardwood, but he leans on spoken word poetry as an intellectual and creative outlet.
He has used it this year as a form of expression and commentary on the inequality that he sees in the world around him.
The 39-year-old spent last summer with the Fraser Valley Bandits after a lengthy playing career in Europe and with the Canadian national team.
Now, Brempong is encouraging other Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) players to use their platform to create positive messages that inspire fellow Canadians to use their voice.
“Before I knew it, I had written that poem and it’s very relevant to what is going on,” Brempong said. “It’s just encouragement to everyone, like we can do better.”
Brempong’s poem – titled ‘Dap That’ – explores issues of social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd.
“It was the physical manifestation of 21 seconds of silence. Long enough to feel the violence,” states Brempong in his poem.
Part of why Brempong played in the CEBL last summer was because he wanted kids in Vancouver to see that they could play professional basketball in Canada.
Inspiring the next generation has been a driving factor for him in pushing messages of justice and equality though his poetry as well. He thinks the CEBL and its players have an opportunity to make an impact in their respective Canadian communities.
“I would encourage the players in the CEBL to use their voice,” Brempong said. “What an opportunity to make a change for them in their lives.
Also – more importantly – for your kids. They’re going to be the generation that’s coming up. As a basketball player, that’s kind of your job.”
“For players right now in the middle of their career, the prime of their career, your responsibility is to look out for that next generation through basketball. That’s the vehicle we are using, but it’s bigger than ball.”
Brempong is a basketball lifer, describing his recent career as going the “Vince Carter route” in terms of his longevity in the sport.
Basketball, which included eight years spent with Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team, taught him how to push himself to be in uncomfortable situations and navigate a way through them.
That meant self-improvement.
Even though he practiced with Steve Nash and played against Kobe Bryant, Brempong understood the importance of also pushing himself off the court.
Brempong first got involved with spoken word poetry around 2011. He was playing professional basketball in Düsseldorf, Germany and was reading Jay-Z’s memoir, Decoded. In the book, Jay-Z reflects on his younger self coming up with rhymes in his head and never having to write them down to remember.
Brempong did not consider himself to have a great memory but wanted to challenge himself with doing the same.
He spent a lot of time in Germany with his own thoughts, coming up with new rhymes and expanding on his poetic skills. It became a strong muscle for Brempong and led him to creating full-length poems.
He has lived among a variety of communities in and outside of Canada, granting him experiences that have given him plenty of perspective and material for his poetry.
Brempong grew up in Winnipeg and is a self-proclaimed “prairie boy at heart.” His parents are from Ghana, however, and he moved to Toronto in high school. Brempong was part of a diverse Toronto basketball scene with immigrants and cultures from across the globe.
The sport took him next to college in North Carolina, which set the stage for a six-year stint as a European pro in Germany and Holland.
“All of those different cultures and different scenarios and people I met along the way just gave me a very open perspective to things that are happening daily to everyone,” Brempong said. “All of that came together in the poems that I wrote.”
He finds that poetry is a strong vehicle to bring ideas and experiences together. It also makes it easier for people to understand and relate to.
Brempong has performed his poetry at various events in B.C. and has spoken about the racism he has seen in Canada.
“It’s good to spread a message. I feel like my message is one of inclusiveness,” Brempong said. “If you do it in a creative or eloquent way, a lot of the time people are able to accept it easier.”
Brempong now describes himself as a basketball consultant. He works with youth across North Vancouver, including an after-school program called 3PointBasketball.
He got involved to help teach basketball technique to elementary school kids, knowing the importance of the grassroots level to growing the game.
Part of Brempong sharing his poetry is showing kids that trying to excel at something else does not take away from the type of athlete that you can be.
He feels that social media often presents today’s kids with a mold where they think they have to fit. Brempong encourages kids to “write their own story.”
“I know for a lot of boys growing up, they try to take on the jock mentality,” he said. “I was always trying to buck the jock mentality.
I was like, ‘I’m more than just a basketball player. Please don’t put me in that box.’”
Brempong says he recognizes that spoken word poetry is something that works for him personally, but he encourages the kids he coaches to experiment with creativity as a way to express themselves.
“Everyone has to find their own thing that works for them, but I definitely would say poetry or writing or any type of expression…that is going to stimulate your brain, it’s a good thing.”
Thanks to Andrew Savory the Director of Operations for the Fraser Valley Bandits for the press release.
If you require additional info please contact Andrew at (604) 217-6213