Celebrating black fathers: landmark Ebony event hailed by overflow crowd

Celebrating black fathers: landmark Ebony event hailed by overflow crowd – Honors

FOR the second straight, record-breaking year, educators, ministers, community leaders and celebrities joined EBONY in celebrating the unsung tradition of great Black fathers.

The all-day celebration, held at Hilton New York & Towers, attracted more than 1,400 people, including large delegations of young Black males, and featured seminars on health, education and careers. The climax of the program was an awards luncheon for distinguished fathers and the sons who have followed in their paths.

EBONY Associate Publisher Jeff Burns Jr., who organized the event, extended greetings on behalf of EBONY’s founding father, Chairman and Publisher John H. Johnson, and President and CEO Linda Johnson Rice. He said the magazine has already received requests and reservations for the third annual tribute, which will be held next June in New York. The co-sponsors of the event were Colgate-Palmolive, U.S. Airways and Prudential Financial Life Insurance Corporation.

Among the 2002 honorees were Martin Luther King Jr., Freedom Movement leader and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who was saluted posthumously by his son, Martin Luther King III, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and rapper Master P, who was hailed by his tapper son, Lil’ Romeo.

Almost all honorees noted that the EBONY celebration is the first major national celebration of Black fathers and the Black father-son bond.

“This is another example,” keynoter Lerone Bennett Jr. said, “of EBONY leadership and initiative. We are indebted to EBONY for reminding us, at a time when many need reminding, of the contributions of Black fathers who have created, with Black mothers, one of the greatest traditions of service and excellence in American history.” He challenged the audience to “spread the word that the great tradition of Black fathers is alive and well in America and that we need a systematic campaign, starting in the nursery, starting in the kindergarten, to tell young Black males that they are descendants of Kings and Mandelas and that to be a Black male in America is to be a giant and a magnet and a mountaintop.”

The master of ceremonies was David Ushery, WABC-TV coanchor, who was accompanied by his father, Solomon Ushery. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, N.J., and former secretary of state of

New Jersey, delivered the spiritual message.

The highlight of the day was the moving and sometimes tearful luncheon ceremony in which sons paid tribute to their fathers. Film-maker and actor Mario Van Peebles recalled growing up in a household with a devoted father who spoke several languages and discussed the stock market and the world of films and literature at the dinner table.

Lil’ Romeo told the audience that his father is more than a rapper and that he is indebted to him for his understanding of life. Master P responded by saying that he changed his lifestyle and stopped using questionable lyrics because of the influence of his son and because of his new understanding of what he and other rappers owe to young Black males.

No less persuasive was the testimony of two ministers, Dr. Byron Brazier and the Rev. Edward James Norman, who said their fathers, Bishop Arthur M. Brazier and the Rev. Dr. Clarence Norman, changed their lives not only because they preached the Word but because they were always there and because they were always Words and examples. Mike Jarvis II said his father paid him the ultimate tribute by making him his assistant at St. John’s. Philip Banks III, who is one of the highest-ranking Blacks in the New York Police Department, said his father is the ultimate policeman and the ultimate father and man.

Moved by this testimony, which was repeated over and over and echoed by comments from the floor, the participants renewed themselves and pledged themselves to carry the EBONY Father-Son message to their communities and organizations.


PHILIP BANKS JR., supervisor of criminal investigations in the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, served with the New York City Police Department for 27 years and retired as lieutenant. He and his wife Janice have three sons, David, Philip III and Terrence.

BISHOP ARTHUR M. BRAZIER is pastor of Chicago’s Apostolic Church of God, which has a membership of over 16,000. A major force in Chicago public affairs, he was the founding chairman of two major organizations, the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corporation and the Fund for Community Redevelopment and Revitalization. He and his wife Isabelle have four children: Dr. Byron Brazier, Lola Hillman, Janice Dortch and Roslyn Shepherd.

MIKE JARVIS, head coach of St. John’s University’s basketball team, led his team to the Big East Championship in 2000. Coach Jarvis and his son, Michael, made history in 1993 as the first father-son African-American coaching team in college basketball. He and his wife Cornelia have two children, Mike Jarvis II and Dana Shaiyen.

TOM JOYNER is the host of the Tom Joyner Morning Show on ABC radio network. A four-time winner of Billboard magazine’s “Best Urban Contemporary Air Personality” award, he was cited as “Man of the Year” by 100 Black Men. He is married to Donna Richardson and is the father of two sons, Thomas Joyner Jr. and Oscar Joyner.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., the national leader of the Freedom Movement of the 20th century, was the youngest person and the third Black to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He and his wife

Coretta Scott King are parents of four children: Yolanda King, Martin Luther King Ill, Dexter King and the Rev. Berniece King.

MASTER P, chairman and CEO of No Limit Records, has been cited as the highest-paid entertainer in the hip-hop world. He has sold over 50 million albums and has 12 multiplatinum, 10 platinum records and 11 gold records. He created the Los Angeles-based Master P. Foundation to help provide jobs for inner-city youth. He and his wife Sonya have six children. The oldest child is Lil’ Romeo.

THE REV. DR. CLARENCE NORMAN, pastor of First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, N.Y., is celebrating his 49th year in the ministry. He has held a wide range of positions, including politician, teacher, dean, day care center director and program specialist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He and his wife Ellen have five children: Clarence Norman Jr., Beverly Bennett, Dawn Torchon and Kendra Parker.

MELVIN VAN PEEBLES is an actor, author, playwright, composer and pioneer in African-American cinema. His legacy spans more than 40 years and includes fresh and sometimes controversial images. He and his son Mario have collaborated on films like Gang in Blue.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Johnson Publishing Co.

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