The topic of the program (manhood) was fitting for the upcoming holiday, Independence Day. The struggle that men (and women) had to endure during the timeframe leading up to becoming an independent country was led by strong, responsible, and compassionate men. The character that the common man had during those times was of pride, confidence, and a sense of unity. Today too many of our boys and young men are living in a culture of violence, and are not involved in activities that prepare them for success, and the manhood program was created to address this issue.
The program started with fellowship and breakfast. Next Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was introduced by his staff and spoke to the audience of men regarding manhood, and reminded us of work that needs to be done to address this critical issue in our communities. Following were presentations by the four panelists. Rev. James Lawson a legendary civil rights leader, who Dr. Martin Luther King called “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world” told us that: non violence is about the power of love, and the gift of life.
Dr. Johnnie Scott, a poet and professor in the Pan African Studies Department at Cal State Univ. Northridge spoke of his journey as a LAUSD student accepted to Harvard, who later dropped out and later went to Stanford. Pastor Mark Garcia, who pioneered the Victory Outreach Church, spoke of being raised by an alcoholic and violent father. But after finishing Venice High School Garcia joined the Navy and traveled the world where he was able to experience many different cultures. He now preaches and teaches the gospel, and is working on a book titled Radical Evangelism. Keith Johnson, the founder of the Falcons Youth and Family Service Organization uses sports programs to attract kids to a positive activity – but makes sure to include academic proficiency as a goal of every student.
On this 4th of July let’s redefine what manhood really means and looks like in our communities. Have a safe holiday.