An impactful two-day, star-studded speakers series is coming to Ithaca next month.

On September 20 and 21, come enjoy “SEE YOUR POTENTIAL & BELIEVE TO ACHIEVE: A WEEKEND OF THE STARS IN ITHACA” featuring a team of distinguished African American sports, humanitarian, and arts celebrities who will partake in a two-day series of seven different events and activities designed to provide motivational and inspirational dialogue within the community.

This celebrity squad will consist of a broad collection of individuals, some household names, and all with incredible personal stories to tell. They include:

• Larry Jones: A retired NBA and ABA professional basketball player and scout and coach, Jones was best known for his playing days with the Philadelphia 76ers.
• James “Buster” Douglas: Douglas was a professional boxer who became the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world. He is best known for his incredible 42-1 odds upset victory over Mike Tyson to earn the heavyweight crown.
• Granville Waiters: Waiters is a retired NBA basketball star who played with the Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, and the Chicago Bulls.
• Dr. Johannes Christian: Pastor and author, Dr. Christian is best known for his incredible recovery and acts of forgiveness after being nearly killed when someone threw bricks from a highway overpass onto his car.
• Joseph Ponder:  Ponder is an author and screenwriter. He co-wrote the book “The Crossover that Won the Game”, which was made into a motion picture. Ponder served as Executive producer of the movie. Both the movie and book chronicle the story of a young man who must overcome family and personal hardship to become an NBA player.
• Angela Mitchell-Koster: Ms. Mitchell-Koster has been a gymnast who likewise had to overcome injury to achieve excellence in her sport. She currently works with Joseph Ponder on appearances and events such as this Ithaca weekend.
• Trazz Sawyer: Trazz is the Ithaca connection to the team. Sawyer is an author and now also collaborates with Ponder on screenplays and writings, but had to overcome a childhood of abuse, tragedy and ultimately jail time.
Except for Sawyer, the team hails from Columbus, Ohio. In Ithaca, they will meet with youth, make community appearances and presentations, and deliver their own personal stories of overcoming.

“This weekend is an effort to reach out to our community, particularly to our youth and our young people who face their own challenges and hurdles. We are grateful to the generosity of our sponsors that made this weekend possible and we invite people of all ages and backgrounds to come out and be part of this celebration,” says Event Organizer Trazz Sawyer.

Each member among this team of stars has overcome their own significant personal challenges and hurdles to become accomplished in their own fields and they want to share with audiences how to overcome personal life challenges.

Among the Weekend of Stars activities will be a special one-time Ithaca screening of the major motion picture film “The Crossover That Won the Game,” which stars all of the assembled celebrity team. The group will also culminate their visit with a special program of motivational master talks at Ithaca High School.


The abbreviated schedule of activities is:
Friday, Sept. 20
• Special Youth Reception at the Tompkins County Public Library:  This is a ticketed event open to young people from the community. Free tickets for the events will be distributed by GIAC, Southside Community Center and other community centers.
• At 6:30 pm, Cinemapolis will host a special screening of the feature motion picture, “The Crossover That Won the Game”. Tickets are available at Cinemapolis. The ensemble will attend the screening and provide a talkback session with the audience following the movie.
• A special donor reception with the team on Friday evening.
Saturday, Sept. 21
• Saturday morning, the ensemble will travel to TC3 to meet with TC3 students. TC3 is a sponsor of the weekend.
• At noon, the group will arrive at GIAC’s gymnasium for a community lunch, meet and greet, and brief remarks. The lunch is free and open to the public.
• At 1:00 pm, the group will assemble at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Commons for a free program of abbreviated remarks and musical entertainment. The seven members of the team will be introduced by Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick who will MC the event. Music for this Commons event will be provided by Trazz Sawyer – Mabel Welch & The Gospel Voices with sound provided by the Oasis Christian Fellowship Church.
• The capstone event of the weekend will be a 3:00 pm full-length program at Kulp Auditorium at Ithaca High School. This ticketed event will feature presentations from each team member, punctuated by local music and entertainment by area youth. Each team member will give a “TED” style talk highlighting their life journey. Tickets for this “See Your Potential & Believe to Achieve” show are available online through the State Theatre for $10 plus online fees, or for $10 at the State Theatre Box Office and from select area outlets.

The Weekend of Stars is made possible from sponsorships from My Brother’s Keeper and Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC), Cayuga Health, Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3), the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, M&T Bank, Mack & Carol Travis, Travis Hyde Properties, the Tompkins Trust Company, the Marriott Downtown on The Commons, and Oasis Christian Fellowship Church.
More details about specific activities will be available in the coming weeks.