Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day 952: Greater than through love and support

I am about as sick as I have been in a long time. I will go to the doc in the am..but I am glad that I showed up for something saturday...and while I do have a lot of blogging to make up for, I had to stop and share about this experience.

Brandon "Big B" Hickman and Sandra "Midday" McClammy are two of THOSE people. You know...the types who not only understand what it means to be grateful for each and every day, for what they have, and what they can do, but they spend more time than just about any I know giving back to the community they both came up in...and in ways that are profound, meaningful and substantive.

I met Sandra over a decade ago when she was working in public service. You meet her personality and her radiant smile 5 minutes before you meet her..and to be sure the job she had was a good one, but no state job was going to contain this woman. She got her masters and with a part time gig on a local radio station, she blew up as one of the most popular figures in the community. That is way underserving her in the way of a bio, but that is how we met. Brandon and I met when I first became a commissioner and he was THE DJ and his radio celebrity was already well known..but he always..and I mean ALWAYS had his ear to the ground for the youth in the community, for what was happening in the bars, in the neighborhoods and was looking out for, mentoring and being willing to put himself out there...heart, soul, body and all for anyone and everyone that was in need.

The two of these folks coming together...Sandra and Brandon..well that was destined to make an impact that was HUGE!..and what I get the privilege to witness each is that.

So, Saturday was the annual Teen Summit. This is a program that these two came up with that use to serve teens at the end of the year, but has, in the most recent years been a way to start the school year and couple with the African American Heritage Festival.

The phenomenal program focuses on the teens and where they are, what they need, and what serves to embolden and bolster them to succeed and do well as they move back to school. The event is guided by successful teens who have come back from college to be a part of it, setting successful examples and being amazing mentors in their own right,  as well as community leaders and friends who are there not only to speak to the teens, but to listen. And in listening, it is a lesson in hearing what is going on in their world and seeing what hope..what success can so readily happen! It is palpable. But what i love about this while there is listening...there is an expectation that these students..these youth not only can succeed in whatever they pursue..but that they will..and they are surrounded..literally by a room full of people who will give them everything they need to succeed and will be there for them...but it is up to them from there.

The day is split between small groups, presentations, amazing music and performances and panel discussions that are led by Brandon. Big B knows how to work a microphone and it is awesome to see how engaged these youth are throughout the entire morning. Brandon knows who to go to to ask the questions and solicit responses and get the kids to comfortable in being able to feel free to respond and be a part. Shyness dissipates under his very capable and skilled hosting.

I love watching Sandra in particular, as the book bags are passed out (oh yeah..there are these amazing book bags stuffed with supplies given out to the kids at the end that have been is very special). She talks to EACH youth who did not register ahead of time, "why do you deserve a book bag". She is asking, as I have learned, to get them to see value in this. To see the connectedness between being prepared and the gift and success and all the connections that are made in those things coming together. With this amazing mentoring, she walks youngin's from 8-16 through how to open up their posture, look her in the eye and look deep down inside themselves and seek the answer to that question...but to be able to vocalize, share their feelings, give themselves and understand how to build on these skills. She helps them see the connections. One young woman this year, who was so resistant to answering, who crossed her arms and looked at the floor had Sandra, firmly saying to her, "i am here..we are here..but you have to come the next step. I was you. I came up on Emory street in turn key. I know exactly what is going on in your head. But I wanted it and I know you do too. So, why do you deserve a book bag". And eventually she was able to drop her arms and say because she wanted to be prepared and to succeed. It was so powerful to watch. But there was nothing..and I mean nothing...but this love and power surrounding every moment. Again..just to witness it....

I mean, one student at a time, but dozens and dozens, get this love..this mentoring in this room. They get their questions answered...but most importantly they get that sense that this whole community comes out FOR THEM and cares deeply...and they have their part and responsibility in it. Not one child is getting something handed to them..they are all a part of this program: active participants and they are earning it..and the adults..the mentors there so very much want to give..want to see them all succeed and are at the ready.

Now you tell me another radio personality like these two that does this? that steps up and out like this? It is so very powerful. And I got to be a witness.

I live a life that is sustained and made stronger everyday by "greater than through love and support"..this is just one more way that I see this lived out in other places..and while I am sick in the bed..I would not have missed it for the world.

Thanks be to God for Sandra, Brandon, and all there..but mostly for those youth...they have a lot in front of them..I am just glad they saw...on that day how very much was around them if they choose to use it....