He grew up in a Detroit neighborhood where he was lucky to make it to the age of 16. Now living in Grand Rapids, the black homosexual Christian man is doing everything he can to be visible in his community.
Many may know him, as he writes a weekly column for CNN.com and is a senior writer and columnist for “ESPN The Magazine” and ESPN.com. LZ Granderson is also a familiar face on ESPN’s “Sports Center,” “Outside the Lines” and “First Take.”
“I am on national television every week, multiple times a week, and I am a part of West Michigan,” Granderson said. “If you would have seen my neighborhood in Detroit, and you would have told that little dusty five-year-old that in 30-some years he was going to be this guy on television, that five-year-old wouldn’t have believed you. So don’t ever let your current situation dictate what you think you can be.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 13, nearly 30 Ferris students traveled on a bus to hear Granderson’s presentation at the Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids. The event was hosted by Grand Rapids Community College as a part of their Diversity Lecture Series. The Office of Multicultural Student Services at Ferris provided the bus in support of Black History Month.
Granderson spoke about the challenges in society that come with being black, gay, Christian and a father. He shared his story of living in Grand Rapids on and off for nearly 16 years and a man who changed his life, Jeff Swanson.
Swanson was the owner of a coffee shop/bookstore called Sons and Daughters that specifically catered to people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Grand Rapids.
When Granderson met Swanson, he was married to a woman and would go into his coffee shop often to get coffee and a bagel, then sit and hide in the corner. After months of doing that, Swanson approached Granderson and asked him why he was there.
Granderson explained to Swanson that he just liked coffee, but Swanson didn’t accept his reasoning. He asked Granderson again why he was there.
“So I told him I’m married and I think I’m gay and I’m not quite sure what to do about this. I’ve been trying to pray it away now for a number of years and either God is not listening or it can’t be prayed away,” Granderson said. “The more that we talked, the less scared I became. I would not be the comfortable, confident, sometimes outspoken storyteller I am today if it wasn’t for Jeff being visible in this community.”
Sandy Alspach, a Ferris communication professor, encouraged students in her classes to attend Granderson’s presentation. Students from sports communication as well as diversity and communication sat among the audience.
“The proximity of his lecture, and the willingness of OMSS to sponsor the bus as part of Black History month, made the replacement of our class lesson with this opportunity a no-brainer,” Alspach said. “I was very impressed with Mr. Granderson’s presence before an audience; he is natural and dynamic as a story teller—a great model for speakers.”
Although Granderson has a significant knowledge of sports, he did not spend much time discussing his journey through the sports world. Alspach as well as some students in sports communication were left wanting to know more about his career path.
“I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more reference to his career in the sports industry for the sake of the sports communication students,” Alspach said. “A couple of the students commented to me that they enjoyed most of his presentation, but wanted more sports stories.”
Simon Denis, Ferris sophomore in both sports communication and diversity and communication, attended the event. The sports communication major said he really enjoyed the presentation from both sides.
“It was powerful; he did a great job of getting across his points and he stuck to his beliefs,” Denis said. “Be more understanding of people’s rights and beliefs. Even though he is black and gay, he still does everything anyone