Selma’s Bloody Sunday revisited 50 years later with voting rights imperiled

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President Barack Obama and the First Family join civil rights icons Rep. John Lewis, Amelia Boynton Robinson (in wheelchair), US Attorney General Eric Holder, Former President and First Lady George W. and Laura Bush, and thousands of marchers in crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Saturday, March 7, 2015.

By Carmen Glover

On Saturday, March 7, on the 50th Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday attacks unleashed on marchers supporting the right of African-Americans to vote in the United States, President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American President, delivered a rousing speech at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a Ku Klux Klan leader.

President Obama and Rep. John Lewis embrace in Selma, AL.

President Obama and Rep. John Lewis embrace in Selma, AL.

Speaking after Rep. John Lewis, who was brutally beaten at the same bridge 50 years ago when he lead a group of marchers, President Obama stated:  “Our march is not yet finished but we’re getting closer.” President Obama decried injustice in education, law enforcement, and the attacks on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 stating “If we want to honor this day, let Congress restore the Voting Rights Act this year!” But he also chided residents for the chronic low voter turnout despite the struggles of civil rights activists “who gave their blood” to win the right to vote. Click here for the full transcript of President Obama’s speech as provided by Time magazine.

A rapt crowd listens as President Obama speaks in Selma, AL.

A rapt crowd listens as President Obama speaks in Selma, AL.

After the speech, the President, joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, their children, former President and First Lady George W. and Laura Bush, Rep. John Lewis, US Attorney General Eric Holder, 100 members of Congress and thousands of enthusiastic supporters who came to bear witness to the 50-year commemoration of the march for voting rights, marched across the bridge in a poignant reflection of a journey that began decades ago and achieved numerous goals, with many unfinished ideals left to be realized. Meanwhile, in New York City, hundreds of citizens marched across the Brooklyn Bridge from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Borough Hall in solidarity with the Selma 50 marchers

Peaceful marchers were left beaten, bloody and killed on March 7, 1965 as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in their quest to gain the right to vote.

Peaceful marchers, including Rep. John Lewis (center being beaten), were left beaten, bloody and killed on March 7, 1965 as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in their quest to gain the right to vote.

The march from Selma, to Montgomery, Alabama took place after three attempts, including Bloody Sunday, which occurred on March 7, 1965 when marchers were beaten with clubs, attacked by dogs and some killed, as they attempted to cross the bridge. After making an appeal for support, Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., was joined by Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, Diane Nash, other civil rights activists and a phalanx of religious leaders from different faiths in making the 50-plus mile trek to the State Capital in Montgomery, Alabama. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act later that year but recent changes have destroyed some of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, leading to an increase in voter suppression incidents aimed at denying or restricting the right of African-Americans to vote.–OnPointPress.net.

Former Knick, NBA star, Anthony Mason, remembered fondly in death

Anthony Mason passed away early Saturday morning at the age of 48.

Anthony Mason passed away early Saturday morning at the age of 48.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Saturday morning February 28, word spread about the passing of former NBA player Anthony Mason, weeks after he suffered a massive heart attack and underwent several surgeries. During his NBA career, Mason, 48, connected with fans, teammates, and competitors alike using a blend of power and agility in a stout 6’7 ‘ frame.

The versatile and rugged forward made his name as part of the New York Knicks in a career that spanned 13 years, starting in 1993. During his five seasons with the Knicks, Mason played alongside Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley and Derek Harper, making it all the way to the NBA Finals in 1994.

Mason (r) would play a vital role in helping Patrick Ewing (l) lead the Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1994.

Mason (r) would play a vital role in helping Patrick Ewing (l) lead the Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1994.

Former Knicks teammate Patrick Ewing, who is an assistant head coach with the Charlotte Bobcats, shared a statement on Saturday, reflecting on the feeling of sadness he feels as he mourns the death of his former teammate. Ewing said:
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Mason attended high school in Queens, New York so it was fitting that the Knicks would provide him with the opportunity to become a star. Pat Riley was the head coach of the Knicks at the time and would later sign Mason with the Miami Heat where Mason made his only All-Star appearance in 2001. Riley’s statement on Mason’s death was profound:

Mason would have his best individual season in 2001 for the Miami Heat, being named an All-Star that season.

Mason would have his best individual season in 2001 for the Miami Heat, being named an All-Star that season.

“News like this is not only sad, but it’s tragic. Anthony Mason was a very young man with a great family and friends. To lose him so quickly during his journey, especially to those of us that knew him, hurts. We had a great season in Miami experiencing Anthony as an All-Star with the HEAT, and I also had the privilege of coaching him for four years in New York, where he helped take us to the brink of a championship. There were so many great moments that we shared that I will never forget. Our prayers and sympathies are with his family. May God bless his soul,” Riley said.

The NBA honored Mason’s death and the Knicks held a moment of silence at Madison Square Garden before their game against the Raptors. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement outlining Mason’s character and passion for the game:

Mason will also be remembered for his unique haircuts.

Mason will also be remembered for his unique haircuts.

“Anthony Mason exemplified perseverance for all players fighting for their chance in the NBA. With a gritty style of play and a distinctive skill set, he blossomed from a third round draft pick into a Sixth Man Award winner, All-NBA selection and, at age 34, an All-Star. NBA fans and players around the league admired the tenacity on defense and playmaking on offense. Our deepest sympathies go out to the Mason family during this difficult time,” Silver’s statement read.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced as the Mason family mourns. Mason’s sons, Antoine and Anthony Mason, Jr., both played basketball in college. Mason, Jr. played at St. John’s University in 2010 while Antoine is currently enrolled at Auburn University. Mason, Jr. released a statement on behalf of the family which read:
“First, I want to thank all those who offered prayers and well-wishes for my Father, our family really appreciated it.

Mason's sons Anthony Mason, Jr. (l) and Antoine Mason (r) have followed in their father's footsteps as basketball players in their  own rights.

Mason’s sons Anthony Mason, Jr. (l) and Antoine Mason (r) have followed in their father’s footsteps as basketball players in their own rights.

“Overnight New York City and the world lost a legend, a friend, a brother..but more than anything our father, Anthony Mason. As you all would expect our father — Big Mase — put up an incredible fight dealing with a severe heart issues. I’m wishing this was something else I was writing, but Pops we’ve got to let you know we love you and know you’ll always be with us.

“I ask at this time that you respect our family’s privacy with regard to questions as our family takes the time to mourn.”

Peace and blessings go out to the Mason family, friends and legion of fans who remember Mason’s hard work and fierce style of play that made him a joy to watch on the court..–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a training/benefits consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com. For business inquiries contact (646)309-1938.

“Selma” is a fitting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy and 86th birthday celebrations

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering one of his many inspiring speeches.

On January 19, the third Monday in the month, the life, achievements and civil rights advocacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated on a holiday named for him. The civil rights icon, who spent his life protesting against injustice, would have turned 86 years old if he had not been killed in the prime of his life.

While the world pauses to honor his legacy with a national day of service, marches and other noble efforts, his three surviving children are embroiled in a vicious court battle to determine if his traveling Bible and Noble Peace Prize should be sold or remain in the family’s possession.

Oprah Winfrey appears in "Selma" which she produced; David Oyelowo stars as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ava DuVernay, co- writer and director of the film, which has received four award nominations so far.

Oprah Winfrey appears in “Selma” which she produced; David Oyelowo stars as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ava DuVernay, co- writer and director of the film, which has received four award nominations so far.

A fitting tribute to Dr. King’s enduring civil rights advocacy is embodied in the film “Selma,” which chronicles the challenges experienced by Dr. King and dedicated members of the civil rights movement in the spring of 1965 when they used nonviolent methods, in the face of brutality and murder to obtain he right to vote. Despite profound beatings, being arrested, atrocious indignities, deaths and the horrors experienced on Bloody Sunday, they marched, organized and protested peacefully, until they secured their important constitutional right to vote with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Selma,” the first feature film about Dr. King, was directed by an African-American female and has been honored by the Golden Globes for its original song “Glory” sung by John Legend and rapper Common. However, the film has also attracted controversy as well as snubs by the Academy Awards, which nominated it for Best Original Song and Best Picture while ignoring the director, Ava DuVernay and actors, particularly the lead actor David Oyelowo, who brought the film to life.

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David Oyelowo, (center) and other cast members of the powerful film “Selma” which described the civil rights movement’s diligent quest to obtain voting rights in 1965.

President Barack Obama’s decision to host the cast at the White House for a screening of the critically acclaimed but Oscar snubbed historical drama “Selma” was a wise one. Also, the decision by Winfrey, DuVernay, Oyelowo and the other cast members of the film to stage a march across the same Edmund Pettus Bridge over which the civil rights leaders marched for 54 miles to Montgomery, Alabama and participate in a discussion in Selma on this historic day will go a long way in reigniting discussion and awareness about Dr. King, his legacy and his searing impact on the civil rights landscape.

No less important is Winfrey’s spectacular two-day weekend extravaganza honoring “The Legends who Paved the Way,” which aired on her network, OWN, on Sunday night and featured King’s daughter, Bernice King, who was a baby when he was killed.

One of Dr. King's most famous quotes is typically used as a battle cry against injustice.

One of Dr. King’s most famous quotes is typically used as a battle cry against injustice.

There are striking parallels to King’s leadership, passion and determination in standing strong in the face of ridicule and the emotions of current protestors who fight against the scourge of police brutality in our inner cities, particularly police officers killing unarmed African-American and Latino men with impunity.

But as Winfrey said: “These protestors today can learn a lot from the discipline shown by the participants of the civil rights movement. You have to know what you are protesting for and focus on that issue in order to achieve it.”

In 2010,, President Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president, honors civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Lewis, was beaten on Bloody Sunday and endured harsh treatment during his lengthy involvement in the civil rights movement which he joined as a teenager and at 20, was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington.

In 2010, President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, honors civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Lewis, was beaten on Bloody Sunday and endured harsh treatment during his lengthy involvement in the civil rights movement which he joined as a teenager and at 20, was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington.

Despite inequalities in housing, educational attainment, financial, political and social status, collectively African-Americans have made significant progress by utilizing the opportunities that have been gained through the sacrifices made by Dr. King, Rep. John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, the Rev. Joseph Lowery and countless others during the civil rights movement.

The right to vote exists today due to their foresight, commitment and fortitude. As we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday and legacy, let us also reflect on the benefits we enjoy today because of the sustained efforts of a group of individuals who refused to take no for an answer. Happy Birthday Dr. King. You showed that Black lives mattered then and activists are doing their best to show that Black lives still matter today-OnPointPress.net.

While NYC mourns cops’ murders, anti-police brutality protests must continue

Ramos and LIu

NYPD Police Officers Rafael Ramos and WenjianLiu were murdered at point blank range on Saturday afternoon by longtime criminal gang member Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who traveled from Baltimore to commit the crime.

As they sat in their marked patrol car near the Tompkins Houses in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, on Saturday afternoon, New York City police officers Rafael Ramos, who is Latino and Wenjian Liu, who is Asian, were shot at point-blank range by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who traveled to New York City after shooting and wounding his girlfriend in Baltimore, where he had led a life of crime. After murdering the officers, Brinsley then committed suicide.

According to posts on his social media page, Brinsley had threatened to kill police officers in revenge for the murders of unarmed African-American males Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. As the facts emerge, they tell an irrefutable tale: Brinsley, a gang member who embraced a life of crime, acted alone and had no affiliation to any of the families whose loved ones were killed by police officers. While the misguided ambush of the police officers must be loudly condemned in every corner of society, Brinsley’s action should not diminish the worthy cause of the #BlackLivesMatter movement which seeks to bring attention to the scourge of police officers across the nation murdering unarmed African-Americans and Latinos. Ensuring the safety of all innocent lives is the responsibility of a civilized society.

Baltimore gang member Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and wounded his girlfriend before traveling to New York City on Saturday where he murdered two police officers as they sat in their patrol car.

Baltimore gang member Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and wounded his girlfriend before traveling to New York City on Saturday where he murdered two police officers as they sat in their patrol car.

At OnPointPress.net, we mourn the brutal and cowardly murders of officers Ramos and Wenjian. At the same time, we will always mourn the deaths of unarmed African-Americans and Latinos at the hands of police officers. In our view, no life is more important that the other, therefore all lives must be valued equally.

In that vein, we mourn the murders of: Amadaou Diallo who was executed by police officers in a hail of 41 bullets in the Bronx; Anthony Baez, who was choked to death in the Bronx by officer Francis Livotti because Baez’ football hit the officer’s patrol car; Patrick Dorismond in Brooklyn, New York;  Sean Bell who was celebrating his bachelor’s party before he was gunned down by a team of police officers in Queens, New York; Eric Garner who had broken up a fight and was merely standing on a corner in Staten Island, New York; Michael Brown, who had broken the law but did not deserve to die for it in Ferguson, Missouri; John Crawford who was shopping at a Walmart in Ohio; Tamir Rice who was playing with a toy gun in a park in Ohio, Trayvon Martin, who was walking home with candies when a thuggish, police-obsessed George Zimmerman objected, Ezell Ford, in Los Angeles, Akai Gurley, who was talking the stairs in Brooklyn, New York due to a malfunctioning elevator, Oscar Grant, who was trying to get home to his daughter in Oakland, California and the many other unarmed African-American and Latino males and females who are routinely brutalized, harassed and murdered by the very police officers who are sworn to protect and serve them.

We mourn all deaths, and we wait with interest for comprehensive, nationwide reforms to be implemented that will strengthen police-community relations, change the tone of police interactions with Blacks and Latinos to demonstrate respect rather than intimidation and racism, and we look forward to the day when Blacks and Latinos can confidently view police officers as agents who are there to protect them, like they protect Whites, and not murder them with impunity, as is often the case. So as we mourn the unfortunate murders of these innocent officers, we urge the anti-police brutality protests to continue spreading the word that “BlackLivesMatter so that the changes that we seek will become a reality–OnPointPress.net.

#BlackLivesMatter movement mobilize national marches vs. police brutality

New Yorkers hosted the "MillionsMarchNYC"

New Yorkers hosted the “MillionsMarchNYC” which had a strong, vocal turnout.

By Carmen Glover

On Saturday, December 13, several thousand protesters gathered at multiple sites across the country, united in one message: Rally against police brutality. The overall aim was to bring awareness to the scourge of police officers murdering unarmed Black men and boys while grand juries refuse to indict the officers for the murders. The protesters chanted and carried signs stating: “I can’t Breathe,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Stop Police Brutality” among others.

The largest march took place in New York City. Dubbed “MillionsMarchNYC” and organized by several young protesters and media mogul Russell Simmons, the “MillionsMarchNYC” started at Washington Square Park before the group marched uptown, shutting down fifth avenue, sixth avenue and Broadway. The protesters were joined by rapper Nas and music executive Kevin Liles as they marched. A 28-year-old Baruch College professor was arrested for assaulting a two police officers as the group splintered and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Justice For All Rally in Washington DC.

Justice For All Rally in Washington DC.

The second largest march took place on the Freedom Plaza in Washington DC. That march was organized by civil rights groups such as the NAACP, National Urban League, the National Action Network and various youth-themed groups, helmed by young activists who have been vocal on the issue of police brutality.

The DC march was called “Justice For All” and “March Against Police Violence” and was attended by the parents and relatives of well-known victims of police brutality including Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother; Michael Brown Sr. and Leslie McSpadden, parents of Michael Brown; Katiatou Diallo, Amadou Diallo’s mother; John Crawford Sr., father of John Crawford Jr; the partner of Akai Gurley and the mother of his child; Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother. “March Against Police Violence featured speakers from the affected families.

Protesters stage die-in

Protesters stage die-in

“You kept this alive for all the families. We love you all,” said Brown, as he surveyed the crowd. “My son was just 12 years old, a baby, my baby, the youngest of four,” said Rice. “This is a great moment,” said Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother.

The group then marched towards the congressional building, joined by notables such as director Spike Lee with his daughter, and New York State Junior Senator Kirstin Gillibrand.

Protesters gathered in multiple cities over the weekend to protest against police brutality.

Protesters gathered in multiple cities over the weekend to protest against police brutality.

Smaller marches took place in Ferguson, Missouri where Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson, Boston, MA and Oakland, CA where 21-year-old father Oscar Grant was killed on the Bart train by police officers. More marches and acts of civil disobedience are expected as protesters demand action, such as assigning a special prosecutor in any case involving a police officer, even if death of the victim does not occur–OnPointPress.net.

Lorraine Hansberry documentary inspires Kickstarter project

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Boston, MA: On Monday, May 19, 2014, noted playwright Lorraine Hansberry, who died at the age of 34 in 1965, would have celebrated her 84th birthday. In celebration of her artistic impact, producers of a documentary-in-progress about Hansberry’s life have launched a Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter campaign is designed to help raise money to finish the documentary by next year in time to honor the 50th anniversary of the death of the woman best known for writing the play, A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry’s fans are invited to support the documentary project as a special gift in her honor.

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(l-r) Documentary producers Jamila Wignot, Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry are working diligently to reach their financial target to make the documentary a reality.

Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is arguably the most famous black play ever to hit the stage in the United States. This groundbreaking work of art is taught in high schools and colleges across the country. It is continually in rehearsal or production on stages of all sizes across the world. Today, audiences are again flocking to the Barrymore Theater in New York City to see the Tony-nominated revival starring Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington in the lead role. Academy Award-winner Sidney Poitier and the original cast first brought down the house in 1959, when the play opened in the same theater.

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Academy Award-winner Sidney Poitier poses with Tracy Heather Strain, co-producer of  the documentary about Lorraine Hansberry, which is being funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

“What shone through in the play was Hansberry’s artistic and political honesty,” wrote Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in a recent blog post on The Root. What has gotten lost over time, though, is the full character of the play’s author. Often reduced to being a one-hit wonder who died young from cancer, Hansberry was much more than A Raisin in the Sun. Far from the bright lights of Broadway, a small team in Boston’s Fort Point Channel neighborhood has been working to change that limited perspective of the outstanding writer.

Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in the original rendition of 'A Raisin in the Sun.'

Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in the original rendition of ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry, who operate as The Film Posse, are producing the documentary about the life, art and times of Hansberry. Nearly a decade in the works, the film will uncover Hansberry’s complex and compelling life. Often positioned as an integrationist when A Raisin in the Sun debuted on Broadway, her message was much more revolutionary and radical. Her great friend James Baldwin wrote, “Lorraine made no bones about asserting that art has a purpose, and that its purpose was action.”

cast

Denzel Washington and LaTanya Richardson lead an impressive cast in the current revival of ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

Strain and MacLowry are making the film with a diverse group of professionals who live in various locales. New York-based executive producer Chiz Schultz, a veteran producer of feature films, documentaries and children’s television, lives in Nyack. Jamila Wignot, a two-time Peabody award-winning Brooklyn-based filmmaker joined the the team officially last year to co-direct and produce. Harlem-based Kim Miille, an editor whose credits include The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross has signed on. And so has acclaimed clarinetist and composer Don Byron to write the musical score.

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Loorraine Hansberry’s treasure trove of literary works.

Hansberry demanded a public voice at a time when women were meant to be content to support the aspirations of their husbands. One of the headlines about her success read, “Housewife’s Play Is A Hit.” That was just one of the boxes she was put in. When challenged, however, she didn’t back down, tangling with the likes of Mike Wallace, David Susskind, Norman Mailer and Robert Kennedy.

“Her interests were wide and deep, and she was interested in all people,” remarked Heather Strain. “Yes, she fought for African-American civil rights most of her life, but she also was committed to fostering a fair and just global society. Her weapon of choice was her words, and she explored a multitude of issues in her writing that we are still wrestling with today.”

raisin in the sun

The current revival of the iconic play runs through June 15.

Though documentaries have increased in popularity, bringing Hansberry’s story to the screen remains challenging. Compared to personal or contemporary vérité documentaries, historical documentaries are expensive. One issue is the cost of licensing archival material used to craft a story of this nature.

“We estimate our rights cost to be $300,000,” says producer MacLowry. “After we locate materials we’d like to include in the documentary, we have to pay for almost everything that ends up on the screen. This includes photos, archival footage, movie clips, newspaper headlines and personal papers, as well as period music and literary rights.”

denzel

Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington has garnered acclaim for his lead role in the current revival of the play.

In 2005 when the rights began to expire for Eyes on the Prize, the landmark series about the civil rights movement, the challenge of rights costs became public. Almost a million dollars needed to be raised to re-license the archival material and music.

The filmmakers have made great progress in realizing their goals. They have shot 19 interviews, including Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Louis Gossett, Jr., and Glynn Turman as well as Lorraine’s sister and cousin, among others. Recently, the project received a highly competitive production grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise some of additional funds they need to reach their production budget. For Strain, it is worth the effort.

lorraine

Lorraine Hansberry, who blazed a scorching trail in the literary and entertainment worlds, would have celebrated her 84th birthday on 5/19. Her life story is being told in a documentary which is funded via a Kickstarter campaign.

“The campaign also allows us to make connections with all sorts of people who are interested in Lorraine Hansberry, which is extremely motivating,” she said. “I also strongly feel that understanding the past is key to solving issues that face us today. In this media-rich environment, we must continue to make films that examine the past, no matter if the path to do so is challenging.”

To support the Kickstarter campaign, contact the filmmakers toll-free at (855)-TFP-FILM, twitter.com/hansberrydoc and facebook.com/hansberrydocumentary. –OnPointpress.net.

Bronx BP, BFTA, Shawn Dove headline fatherhood conference

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.  spoke at the BFTA Conference.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. , spoke at the BFTA Conference.

By Carmen Glover

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. joined members of his brainchild committee, Bronx Fathers Taking Action (BFTA), keynote speaker Shawn Dove and supporters in braving the non-stop rain on Saturday, March 29, for the second annual Bronx Fathers Taking Action conference.

The event was held at 2500 Halsey Street in the Bronx headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Fathers from diverse backgrounds filled the room, some accompanied by their sons and daughters. The air was electric with anticipation and conversations buzzed as the event geared up to start. The theme of the event was “Sons of Today, Fathers of Tomorrow.”

Rev Wyatt gave the opening prayer

The Rev  Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, a former educator,  gave the opening prayer and also participated as a panelist by sharing his views and providing context and insight.

Andre Peterson, the event’s chairman, started the event and then introduced the Reverend Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, who delivered the opening prayer. Ronald Hartridge and Felix Leo Campos, co-chars of the BFTA, provided an overview of the committee by sharing its mission statement, eliciting applause and murmurs of agreement when they spoke.

“The Bronx Borough President formed this group two years ago and made this men the co-chairs,” said Peterson as he introduced the men.

“This is a movement, it’s not just something to do. I grew up in the Bronx and raised my family in Co-op City,” said Hartridge. “This committee of Bronx fathers will focus proactively on engaging, empowering, educating and encouraging fathers. Our objective is to enlighten and advocate for fathers in our borough and facilitate a path towards productive parenthood. Our goal is to provide resources and new relationships to reinforce fathers as positive role models.” Campos agreed, echoing details about the origin of the committee.

Ronald Hartridge

Ronald Hartridge, co-chair of BFTA, spoke passionately about the importance of fathers being involved in the lives of their children and the importance of the BFTA expanding and growing.

The men indicated that they have identified several areas where their efforts will be targeted: mentoring, fathers’ rights advocacy, financial literacy and education. Each conference will launch the focus on one key area. The focus identified at Saturday’s conference was mentoring.

“I was born here in the Bronx and was a teenager in the late ’80s,” the borough president said when he addressed the gathering. “I am a father myself and you all know my father, Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr. I grew up on Watson Avenue, saw many bad things. My father wasn’t too comfortable talking to my brother and I about certain things so we both became teenaged parents.”

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Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz met with attendees after delivering his speech.

Diaz explained how he transferred from one high school to another because “I was in love with a young lady so I transferred, chasing after her. Well, Hilda and I are still in love. At the age of 21 I was a father of two.” Several men in the room nodded in recognition as Diaz talked about his past, especially when he stated:

“My family was one of the few where both mother and father were in the household.”

Diaz explained that with the borough celebrating 100 years and seeing over “$600 billions in investment,” it is important that “we prepare young men so that they are not forced out due to gentrification,” which he described as “other people will be coming in and we will be forced out.” Issuing a challenge to the men gathered, Diaz said:” When you speak of violence and crime the one denominator is usually young men who didn’t have support so shame on us, shame on me if we don’t start to lay down that foundation so the Bronx develops these young men.”

shawn dove

Keynote Speaker Shawn Dove listens attentively as the Borough President speaks.

Keynote speaker Shawn Dove, who has worked in youth development for decades, thanked the borough president for his “honesty and transparency,” as he began his speech, saying as he looked at the men: “The iconic leadership that we are waiting for are right here in this room.” Dove then spoke about his upbringing and the role of women in his life:

“I want to acknowledge our women. I am a product of a single parent home with a Jamaican mother. I grew up in the Bronx and we are standing here fighting for our sons, our brothers, our wives and our fathers. Some people build monuments but the Bronx is building a movement,” he said as the men applauded.

He spoke about the importance of having mentors, acknowledging Wyatt as one of his. Dove disclosed how the Wyatt influenced him with words, and he shared one of the lessons that he learned from him years agi. Reflecting on that impact he said: “The right word from the right person at the right time can change your life.”

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Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz awards citation to Shawn Dove after his speech.

Dove explained that it is important for men to realize that it is acceptable to cry and he recalled being brought to tears in the past as he considered the plight of young men. “I cried and wondered who is crying for our sons,” he said, explaining that “We have to instill into our young men that they can reach out to us and say: ‘I need help’ because every young man needs help.”

He described the BFTA as being instrumental in providing that help. “The BFTA is a fight. We have to sound the alarm in the Bronx. If the Bronx is going to lead we have to raise the awareness, train fathers because 23 million children wake up each morning without their biological fathers.”

After delivering his speech, Dove was awarded a citation by the borough president. Also, all the members of BFTA who were in attendance were awarded citations as well.

“To the Bronx Fathers Taking Action, none of them is getting paid a dime. They all have their children and grandchildren at home. With that attitude we will be the model, the paradigm by which other boroughs are judged,” Diaz said in presenting the citations to the BFTA members.

After the citations were presented, the attendees broke for a lunch break which featured singing by a female duo and a spoken word performance, by Glen Jenkins that was gripping from beginning to the end.

 

performer

Glen Jenkins, spoken work performer from the Church of God of Prophecy on East 165th Street, delivered a searing poem that riveted the audience and brought them to their feet in appreciation.

Jenkins recited his original poem, “The Truth,” which called for action and activism. His delivery was riveting and his words were strong and powerful. His performance was warmly received and from his manner and tone it was evident that he was driven by a desire to share his message as widely and often as he can.

After the lunch break, the event resumed with a panel discussion during which panelists shared their experiences as mentors to children and the impact such interactions have in the lives of the mentees. Audience members asked various questions and respectful dialogue ensued.

The conference also featured display tables where a modest group showcased their organizations. Among the entities who had representatives distributing literature and keepsakes were: Bright Futures Tutoring  Services and The Akira Center.

panelists

Panelists Rafael Fornes, III, fathers’ advocate (l) and Melvin Alston (r), Responsible Fathers Coalition, Administration for Childrens’ Services (ACS) provided insight as panelists.

The members of the BFTA who attended the event were: Hartridge, Campos, Vincent Adams, who was the master of ceremonies; Kenneth Alexander from the Real Dads Network, Jamal Bowman, John Fielder, Fornes, Dr. Patrick Gannon, Jose Gonzalez, Theodore James, Peterson, Jose Manuel Pichardo and Robert Powell from the Bronx BP’s Panel for Educational Policy. Charles H. Oruam and the Rev. Dr. Robert Smith, Jr. did not attend.

Dove left the gathering with three steps to changing the circumstances for young men: “Teach them how to transform pain into power, build strategic partnerships and develop the gold in our young people,’ he said. Diaz endorsed the sentiment and added: “When we approach young men we have to redefine how a man is and should be. We’ve been stuck in this mental box about how we should comport ourselves.”

Fornes emphasized “the importance of pairing fathers with children who need mentors,” while Alston talked about Bronx Visions, a group formed by men from ACS who go to specific schools during the men’s lunch break, to mentor children. “We talk to them about their behavior and achievement,” he explained. But the tone of warning was issued by Wyatt.

“We are in deep trouble as a community,” he said. “There are so many children in need of direction and guidance. Mentoring takes time.”

From all indications, the men who comprise the BFTA are up to the challenge and determined to fill the need as well as expand their reach, one child at a time.

For more information about the Bronx Fathers Taking Action (BFTA), contact Monica Major, director of education and youth services at Tel: 718-590-3515 or email mmajor@bronxbp.nyc.gov.–OnPointPress.net.

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