PITTSFIELD — The Black 14 have been through plenty since 14 young men were kicked off the University of Wyoming football team in 1969. Fifty-one years later, the Black 14 Philanthropy, in partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is delivering tons of food to nine cities throughout the United States.
Pittsfield native Tony Gibson, a member of the Black 14, along with about 25 volunteers from the Church of Latter-day Saints, were at The Christian Center in Pittsfield about 8 a.m. Thursday morning as 40,000 pounds of food was delivered to the food-distribution center. The delivery was one of nine sent to communities where members of the Black 14 reside.
“There were a lot of times we didn’t want to talk about the 14; it was very upsetting,” said Gibson, who spent all but three years of his life in Berkshire County. “It never defined us. What we are doing now is what defines us. There are 11 surviving members, and the three who aren’t with us would be so proud to see what we have done.”
Gibson and Black 14 members returned to the University of Wyoming last year and worked ideas about how they could help people. Mel Hamilton, one of the 14, created a bridge with the Latter-day Saints to get the ball rolling on the project, in collaboration with the Black 14 Philanthropy.
“I couldn’t be prouder to be a member of the Black 14 and work with the Later-day Saints side by side to help out the community,” Gibson said. “I can’t say enough about Patrick Gable and The Christian Center staff for how much they contribute to the community.”
Gable, president of the board at The Christian Center, was tasked with finding an effective way to use 40,000 pounds of food, which is good for about 36,000 meals.
“Sixteen different food pantries from across the county are coming, and we’re going to load them up,” Gable said. “Half of the load will be given up today and the rest will go into our food pantry.”
Because of a lack of food, one unnamed pantry was on the verge of closing but now will remain as a result of receiving surplus of food.
“I started making calls to different pantries, and they were overjoyed to hear the news [of the 40,000-pound delivery],” Gable said. “Everyone is excited about this, and everyone wants to know the story about Tony and the Black 14.”
The delivery Thursday was made a bit easier with the help of Daniel Burke Electrical Consulting and Installations of Pittsfield.
Gibson, who spent most of his career with Northeast Utilities — it became Eversource Energy in 2015 — got to know Burke over the years and mentioned to him that the food was being delivered without a forklift. Gibson praised Burke for providing not only a forklift, but he had employees at the scene and flattened the ground around The Christian Center to provide space to unload the delivery.
The story of Gibson and the Black 14 has stepped into the light in recent years. Fourteen young men were kicked off the Wyoming football team for wanting to protest the racist policies at Brigham Young University. While it isn’t always easy to talk about, Gibson couldn’t be prouder of the legacy left by himself and his 13 brothers.
“It is emotional to talk about — even 51 years later,” Gibson said. “What we did 51 years ago has changed things for the better, and I hope that continues past this day.”