There are memories to be shared.
There are also tragedies that leave broken hearts. It’s true of many campuses, and Narbonne is no different.
When the Gauchos’ football team plays Saint Louis on Saturday night at Aloha Stadium, it will likely be a festive atmosphere surrounding a physical, elite-level game between Hawaii’s No. 1 team and one of the best programs in California. Both schools share a history of producing alumni who have contributed to society in just about every way.
But in 1995, Narbonne became the epicenter for a horrific on-campus incident. A student of Pakistani heritage was beaten to death by a group of Latino students. Reports of the tragedy cued to shocked witnesses who said it began and ended within 10 seconds. Located in Los Angeles, the school had its tremendous variation of ethnic groups, but wasn’t immune to on-campus incidents, especially during an era when gang warfare was common in the city.
The victim was Shazeb Andleeb, who one friend described as someone who stood up for himself. Andleeb was permanently memorialized, in a sense, by Frank Black in his song, The Last Stand of Shazeb Andleeb.
And on this smoggy day
He tried to make his way
But odds were six to one
He had no chance to fight
He ascended into light
Light brighter than the sun
Did you almost feel the pain?
It will never be the same
The desecration of this globe
He came from Pakistan
To the halls of Narbonne
This is the last stand of Shazeb Andleeb
More than a decade earlier, a Hawaii-born student-athlete named John Mizuno attended Narbonne. He was a baseball and football player, selected to the all-league team, and even picked as the most athletic of his senior class, which graduated in ’82. He remembers the good times.
“It was a lot like Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” Mizuno recalled. “There were all kinds of different groups, but they respected each other’s space.”
Mizuno also recalled the razor-sharp side of a school and community, a working, middle-class environment. One of his football teammates was stabbed, not seriously, by a non-athlete who he had bullied.
It has happened at just about every campus, any campus. Narbonne is a microcosm of Los Angeles, and no school is immune from the same problems that schools everywhere face. Narbonne has produced NASA employees, professional athletes and actors, and even a politician.
Mizuno returned to Hawaii, became an attorney and is now a Representative of District 28 (Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights).
“It was a blast,” he said of his alma mater. “We didn’t feel racism because we’re so mixed.”
The gang culture of LA has simmered down over the past two decades. Narbonne is still a gritty place, but peace has prevailed more often than not. And there is a football program there that has become renowned for its success under a longtime coach and teacher, Manuel Douglas.
“When (Mizuno) was a student, that’s when it was really rough,” Douglas said.
Douglas never planned to become a teacher, let alone a coach. His route was going to be law school, but his destiny took him to Narbonne, where he has made a difference in hundreds of young lives. Flying over a group of 75 players, coaches, managers and chaperones to Hawaii — the planning and energy spent have been worthwhile.
“Many of the kids have never had the chance to travel to Hawaii,” Douglas said. “I’ve been there 25 times with my family. It’s a great experience.”