Thirty days has September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31, except February, alone to which we 28 assign, ‘til leap year gives us 29. This rhyme was first conceived in 1488, and we still use it today, especially when teaching children how to remember the days of the month, although I have to admit I sometimes use it myself. Leap year is always fascinating because the 29th day carries with it a sort of mystique. Besides being known traditionally as Sadie Hawkins day, when the female can ask the male for a date or even for his hand in marriage, it also brings with it the air that anything good can happen—like a miracle.
Providing miracles everyday are the 100 Black Men, Inc., of New York, who celebrated their 36th annual benefit gala, Guiding the Way for Future Leaders. Hundreds of guests gathered at the New York Hilton Hotel for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Gone were the long, drawn-out prepared speeches that were either read verbatim or memorized by heart. The program began with student members of the 100 Black Men mentoring program, who were well spoken and committed to developing their future, setting a good example for their peers, and making the older generation proud.
The young lady and two young men who took the podium each spoke of how, only one year ago, they were lost, without any direction or confidence. And what a difference the 100 Black Men organization has made in their individual lives. Phrases such as “I have my elevator pitch,” “Today is your day, you can do this” and “I am ready for the world” were all heartfelt and clearly articulated. One young man was not ashamed to stop mid-speech as he became choked up with tears, remembering how he almost became a high-school dropout, a negative statistic. With the help of a school guidance counselor who would not give up on him, he found his way to the mentoring program. Today, he attends Baruch College, amazed at how few Black students are enrolled there and committed to doing something about it. He emphasized, “Not all of our Black men are lost,” and in conclusion he thanked the organization for their passion, commitment and investment. Needless to say, he received a standing ovation.
Mistress of ceremonies for the evening was WABC-TV News anchor Sade Baderinwa, who expressed her own gratitude for being included by stating, “It is a pleasure to be here to support my brothers, as their mentorship is pivotal.”
The Rev. Dr. Marvin A. Moss, senior pastor of Salem Methodist Church, located at 127th Street and Seventh Avenue, gave the invocation, followed by the call, when normally the doors of the church are open, but in this instance, invited guests stepped up to the stage and gave their pledge.This moment was an excellent touch because many were only too happy to step up and give a pledge. I don’t know if this call was part of the program, done spontaneously or, with Moss being a preacher, just part of his repertoire, but it worked.
Dr. Michael J. Gardner, current president of 100 Black Men, spoke eloquently of how more than $100,000 have be awarded in college scholarships to 52 college students this year, and an even larger amount for infrastructure projects.The NYC chapter remains focused on “finding solutions to historical problems that will change the fabric of our city.”
Award presentations were made to George W. Brooks, president of United Parcel Service East Region, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. Brooks stated, “My challenge is to dream bigger and set the bar higher. I didn’t always like what my mentors said, but I knew it was coming from the heart. There may have been a void in my life, but where I didn’t have experience or resources, I had drive and heart. God, family and career inspired me to do more.” Vance thanked his family for their support while he works on connecting with the people on issues that matter. “The job is to focus on justice,” he said. To date, the DA’s office has been responsible for funding the Police Athletic League gyms, open across the city, where more than 5,200 children are able to participate in sports and academic programs as a deterrent to getting involved in criminal activity. In conclusion Vance stated, “When conditions in a neighborhood are wrong, we work to find what works to make it right.”
The first recipient of the Betty Shabazz Community Service Award was Monifa Bandele of momsrising.org. Momsrising fights for issues and policies that are important to moms on a national level. In her acceptance speech, Bandele said, “The 100 Black Men are my dream team as they strive to improve the educational system and provide the same opportunities that are received by the cream of the crop. But remember, none of the great work men are doing is possible without great women.”
Making a special appearance was Mayor Bill de Blasio. He spoke of the 100 Black Men’s profound commitment to right wrongs, and how it is his goal to fight “structural racism.” “At the heart of the matter,” the Mayor said, “is getting the flow of money into different hands as a fundamental means to fighting inequality.” De Blasio spoke of his passion for expanding the opportunities for minority- and woman-owned businesses by increasing the monetary and contract awards. He is currently seeking to have legislations passed in Albany that would cut the red tape and increase capital funding for small businesses. “When we award a contract to a MWB, it changes everybody’s life.”
Also honored were Rodney Williams, executive vice-president, Moet-Hennessy USA; Horace Barker, vice-president and assistant branch manager, Morgan Stanley, as Member of the Year; and James Peterson, CEO, Environmental Agricultural Training/ With Culinary Arts Professionals, as Mentor of the Year. Rousing renditions of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” were performed by Sheimyrah Might, and post-reception entertainment provided by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Among the many in attendance were Congressman Gregory Meeks, President of the NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch Geoffrey Eaton, Councilmember Inez Dickens, Judge Tanya Kennedy, Shirley Scott, Evelyn Fredericks, Jackie Rowe, Bill Adams, David Davenport and Audrey Bernard.
Until next week … kisses.