Black belt attorney wears pink belt for cause


By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Black belt Jesse Green has gone pink.

And he insists with a smile that only some men are tough enough to do it.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Green and others in ATA martial arts are helping raise awareness by wearing pink belts with their uniforms -- or dobaks.

"Sadly a lot of people still don't remember to get mammograms on a regular basis," said Green, an attorney and communications director of the Michigan Association for Justice in Lansing.

"We can't cure cancer yet, but we can make people aware of it, and hopefully that awareness can help more people escape what happened to Jan."

Jan Nygren taught piano to Green's son, Christopher, 11. Last winter, she had some health problems. In April, when she seemed in extra pain, Green and others suggested she seek additional care. About a week later, Green got an e-mail from Nygren's daughter saying that Nygren had breast cancer, and would have to cancel piano lessons for a while. In fact, she died in hospice within weeks.

The news hit Christopher hard, and it was only recently that he began taking piano lessons again. Meanwhile, he and his father, who are both third degree black belts who practice at Burch's ATA in Haslett, heard about a fundraiser for breast cancer at the neighboring Flotka's ATA. The "Pink Belts" sell for $15 each, with proceeds going to "Susan G. Komen For The Cure." Fundraiser Melissa Blood says about 40 belts have been sold so far, with two weeks to go to hit the local goal of $1,000.

Green is also raising money for a memorial bench in Jan Nygren's name at the senior center where she taught.

"You don't usually see martial artists running around in pink belts, so it's kind of a cute thing, kind of striking and different," said Green, noting that he's jokingly challenging other men to be man enough to wear pink.

Now that he's the age when absolutely everything can be embarrassing, how does Christopher feel about wearing a pink belt?

"We learn black belts are supposed to be role models and to help," he said. "And pink is for the toughest people."

Published: Fri, Oct 28, 2011