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Pellom McDaniels plumbs his soul in ‘My Own Harlem’

December 27, 1997

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Feeling cheated, he stands at the grave of a grandfather he never knew and recalls indifferent letters mailed from exotic places by a father he hardly knew.

More upbeat passages speak of his love for the richly textured history of jazz, and of a thoughtful professor with ``a voice abundant in wisdom″ telling startled students things about slavery they didn’t want to hear.

In ``My Own Harlem,″ a 64-page soft-cover compilation of his previous writings, Kansas City linebacker Pellom McDaniels offers poetic musings and deeply personal thoughts of a complex young man in search of a place for himself and his people.

One subject he omits, however, is the one that fans would probably most look forward to. The man who played a key role in the Chiefs’ drive toward a 13-3 regular-season record and AFC West championship does not include a single passage about sports. There is not a word about how he stepped in for injured star Derrick Thomas early this season and supplied the Chiefs with championship-caliber play.

``There’s a lot more to Pellom McDaniels than football,″ Chiefs’ coach Marty Schottenheimer once said,

``My Own Harlem″ was published this year in Kansas City in connection with ``Arts for Smarts,″ a program conducted by McDaniels and his wife, Navvab, to acquaint disadvantaged kids with dance, theater and literature. Currently, about 2,000 are involved.

``We do a lot more than just encourage them. We work with them, and get the kids to work together,″ McDaniels said. ``They’re building self-esteem and an interest in school. In our writing program, we help kids express themselves, and help them learn to speak before groups of people.″

A graduate of Oregon State University with a degree in communications and political science, the energetic McDaniels also owns and operates his own clothing company.

Newspaper and television reporters covering the Chiefs learned long ago that McDaniels was a sure bet whenever they needed a witty, thoughtful quote or sound bite.

But in ``My Own Harlem,″ his reflections often seem dark and moody, such as the passage entitled ``My beginning.″

``My grandfather I barely knew. His memory was washed away with the absence of my father ... now I stand over a grave site that gives no indication of his ever living. Of my existence. Of our name ... who was he? What did he like? What did he die of?

``There was no marker for the grave, just a number, 1470. I sit and swell with anger. He deserves to be known. To be recognized ... he has a name and a past ... Pelham N. McDaniel was a man. Pelham N. McDaniel was me. And now I am found.″

The mood of the most of his writings is a sharp contrast to the affable, outgoing personality teammates have come to know.

``I think that’s one of the most important things people can derive from the arts,″ he said. ``It helps a person get in touch with their innermost feelings. It’s a path to truth. And besides, it’s fun.″

In another passage entitled ``Sleep Walkers,″ the athlete/entrepreneur/artist denounces those who ``steal from my precious, limited and bountiful resource _ time.″

``Sleeping is for thieves,″ he writes. ``For they steal the energy of life and all its rewards. Wasting thoughtless action and pursuing empty goals with empty purpose. Dreaming of what could be, acting on nothing.″

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