Special to South Florida Times
RIVIERA BEACH — A two-year dream to bring black boys together in his hometown and motivate them to excel came true Saturday when Terry Bradden Jr. hosted his first all-male conference. About 150 mostly African-American students in grades 6 to 12 turned out for the “Brother Speak To Me” gathering at Inlet Grove High School, 1717 Avenue S in Riviera Beach.
Guest speakers included state Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach; retired NFL player Darryl Haley; former Kansas City Chief DaJuan Morgan; Hampton University student Isaiah Stewart III; and Riviera Beach Police Chief Clarence Williams.
“It’s always a time when you come back and give back to the community, to give to your community what your community gave to you,” said Bradden, a Tuskegee University student. “I have a 2-year-old son and I just want to instill in him to give, give, give — and good things will come back to you.”
Inlet Grove Principal Emma Banks said Bradden did what every young person should do: come back and give to the community.
“He was an excellent student. It means so much to me to see a young man, especially an African-American man, come back to the city of Riviera Beach and do something wonderful to help others.”
Stewart said a united front was needed to improve neighborhoods.
“When we come from the same community and we’re sharing the same battles, we should be a little more united,” he said. “If you want to see things change in your community, you have to stand up and take action.”
Bradden, who is majoring in social work at Tuskegee, is hoping for a professional football career. If that doesn’t work out, he hopes to join the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Marshals Service.
“Terry takes on challenges. He’s not afraid to move forward and make a mistake. He showed 100 percent effort (in the classroom),” said his former teacher Kemia Lockhart.
Speaking at the conference, Bernard said the conference was important because it helped to bridge the generational gap.
“You get the chance to see different ages of African-American males and the generational issues that are important to our communities,” he said. “It’s having a dialogue, to see people who are not just in sports or athletes but to see other people who are successful and who want to contribute to their community.”
Bradden, 21, said that was the goal, for attendees to hear from individuals from different life perspectives who are all doing great things.
“We have some (speakers) who have been incarcerated and others who are in college. I want the kids to know they can do anything if they put their minds to it,” he said. “Even if you are going through a struggle, single parents, even if your dad is taking care of you, you still can make it, no matter what.”
Morgan stressed that point. Adversity can create opportunities and help form character, he said. He told attendees his family home in Riviera Beach was destroyed by a tornado in 2004 and two weeks later he was involved in a near fatal car accident.
“When adversity strikes, as long as you’re still living, you can make it. And if you put your mind to it, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you,” he said. “I kept my focus on God. I worked hard and persevered.”
Morgan, 26, who played professional football with the Kansas City Chiefs, said he intends to return to the NFL and will continue to persevere just as he did after the accident which dislocated his hip.
“I didn’t give up. I had a goal. I had a focus and I stayed (true) to it. I learned how to persevere and put priorities straight in my life,” he said.
Morgan’s younger brother, Deandre Morgan, 24, said youth should surround themselves with positive people, not give up on their goals and get an education.
“It was important for me to get my degree so that I could have something to fall back on,” he said. “And I am going to continue to pursue my goal, which is to go to the NFL, but I always wanted to have a backup plan.”
Bradden said he would like to make “Brother Speak To Me” an annual conference and is hoping for more sponsors.
For more information Bradden may be reached at 561-889-2517.
Photo: Terry Bradden Jr.