FORT LAUDERDALE — Community service reigned during the 11th annual Men of Valor and Women of Promise Community Achievers Breakfast and Community Forum at Mount Hermon A.M.E Church Family Life Center in Fort Lauderdale.
There was a wealth of information as Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie outlined a plan of action for Broward teachers and students, Florida Rep. Gwendolyn Clarke-Reed updated civil citation laws, and keynote speaker Marvin Luther Crawford of the Morehouse School of Medicine spoke about accessing healthcare through the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Sponsors were Touch of Compassion Outreach Mentoring Fellowship and Pastor Douglas Russell’s Men of Destiny Community Outreach, Inc.
Touch of Compassion founder, the Rev. Edrena Houston Brown surveyed the needs of families to get men more involved in community service and families.
“We start with the mother and father, and, then the children,” she said. “We give scholarships for books to college-bound students and honor them for their community service. Last year we gave 10, this year we’re only able to give five. We have diverse honorees from college presidents to unsung heroes silently working in their communities.
“Last year,” added Brown, “a man said it was his first time being recognized for anything in his life and he was 75 years old. The greatest service is to recognize others for what they are doing in the community while they are living.”
Men of Valor Community Achievers honorees included the Rev. Richard Allen; Covenant Mortuary owner Christopher McLemore; and Michael Bryant, branch manager of Tyrone Bryant Library.
Women of Promise Community Achievers included Liz Johnson of Legal Shield, Sheryl Dickey of Dickey Consulting Services and journalist Starla Vaughns Cherin.
Scholarship recipients included Jeremiah Oyetunji, Travis Sinclair, Jannell Floyd and Sierra Ware, a sophomore at Albany State and a member of the Faith In Action Step Ministries. “Be the change in the world you want to see,” Ware said.
In the aftermath of the recent Trayvon Martin verdict, and the U.S. Supreme Court striking down parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the event’s theme — Where Do We Go From Here — resonated within the community activism urged by speakers.
Runcie noted he has put resources and staff to the challenge of male success in the public school system by establishing the Office of Minority Male Success, partnering with the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) and Florida Juvenile Justice Department.
“We’re not going to call the police anymore for minor infractions,” Runcie said. “Nothing compares to the crisis of the black male in the education system. Until we solve this problem, our community will suffer. We need the family’s and the community’s help because there is no longer a factory to employ the undereducated.”
Strengthening the language of Florida’s Civil Citation laws, Clarke-Reed urged community members to bombard the office of state Rep. Matt Gaetz, chair of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, to hear new legislation on the Civil Citation Laws as an alternative to juvenile arrests for youth who qualify.
“The language says that law enforcement may offer a Civil Citation,” said Clark-Reed. “We want to make a Civil Citation a must for law enforcement. Most of the larger police forces like BSO are on target. It’s the smaller cities with their own police forces where we are having the problem.”
In his 22 years of tenure, Crawford is an eight-time winner of the Morehouse School of Medicine Internal Medicine Teacher of the Year award. He roused the group on being a good neighbor.
“Stand your ground is making us bad neighbors. Good neighbors don’t fight young boys and he sees more than the color of the skin. He goes that second mile to right perception and sees beyond where I am to where I can be.”
As senior pastor of First St. Paul A.M.E. Church of Lithonia, Ga., Crawford and parishioners collaborated with the South DeKalb Health Initiative to expand a local health clinic in order to service 1,500 uninsured.
“Uninsured community members contact health providers to find one that will offer preventive and maintenance care along with hospitalization,” Crawford said “It should be offered based on income and could be as little as $10 a month.
“It will,” he added, “be expensive, but we need to revisit providing healthcare at a cheaper cost with or without a bill. Healthcare in the U.S. spends three times as much per person, yet our outcomes are no better than the next five to 10 countries on the list below us. Actually, their outcomes are better, and they live longer.”