North­eastern Uni­ver­sity has a unique con­nec­tion to the first person of color drafted by the Bas­ket­ball Asso­ci­a­tion of America, a pre­cursor to the NBA.

In 1947, Japanese-​​American col­lege bas­ket­ball star Wat Misaka was drafted by former New York Knicks coach Joe Lapchick. Thirty-​​seven years later, Lapchick’s son, social jus­tice pio­neer Richard Lapchick, founded Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, which uses the power and appeal of sport to foster diver­sity and pro­mote social responsibility.

Richard Lapchick credits his father for influ­encing his com­mit­ment to equality. “My dad had a huge influ­ence on my life and my values,” said Lapchick, who is now Sport in Society’s director emer­itus. “Seeing some of the neg­a­tive response to his signing of Nat Clifton (the first African-​​American to break the NBA color-​​barrier) rein­forced his—and later—my desire to stand up for jus­tice and not block its path.”

Now a little-​​known instance of Joe Lapchick’s com­mit­ment to jus­tice has been cap­tured on film, in a doc­u­men­tary chron­i­cling Misaka’s ascent to the NBA at a time when anti-​​Japanese sen­ti­ment ran high.

Tran­scending: The Wat Misaka Story” will pre­miere at the Rhode Island Inter­na­tional Film Fes­tival in New­port on August 8, cohosted by Northeastern’s center, the film fes­tival, and ReImag­ined World Enter­tain­ment. The doc­u­men­tary fea­tures inter­views with Wat and his family, team­mates, bas­ket­ball his­to­rians and sports­casters who dis­cuss Misaka’s barrier-​​breaking journey during the end of World War II, when many Japanese were still in intern­ment camps around the country.

To create a fuller edu­ca­tional expe­ri­ence, Sport in Society teamed up with film­makers Bruce and Chris­tine Johnson to develop a cur­riculum on Japanese-​​American his­tory for young people who watch the Misaka doc­u­men­tary. And on the same day as the film’s screening, the center will hold a fundraiser, hoping to attract uni­ver­sity alumni and others inter­ested in the inter­sec­tion of sport and social justice.

Misaka is one of the unsung heroes of sport,” said Jarrod Chin, director of the vio­lence pre­ven­tion and diver­sity pro­gram at Sport in Society. “In a lot of ways, he’s basketball’s ver­sion of Jackie Robinson. He is a figure for social jus­tice and inclusion.”

For the full story, click here: http://​www​.north​eastern​.edu/​s​p​o​r​t​i​n​s​o​c​i​e​t​y​/​n​e​w​s​/​2​0​0​9​/​1​8​5​.​h​tml