Craig and Harney VIP Luncheons
Each year, I beg our Mentors to make sure they come to their boys VIP Luncheon at Dooky Chase. I call it “payday”. Its when you get to see how your kids will act around “company”. Like many parents we are amazed each year at how the lessons and good examples come out when it counts, in the world with strangers. I was elated that Dr. Jerome Medley made the Craig luncheon, which he so generously sponsored. “Doc” was a graduate of Craig and last year served as a full time Mentor there, we hope to get him back on campus next year if the time slot allows him again. (Once a Silverback, always a Silverback)
At this point in the program our boys are very comfortable with us, comfortable enough to not only share their dreams, ambitions and problems, but also to act silly in our presence, good naturedly ribbing one another and sometimes even cracking on us, never disrespectful, never while a man is telling his story, but they aren't afraid to be kids around us, especially when we are on the yard. So each year the real test of their ability to control their impulses and assume appropriate behavior gets demonstrated when they walk into the historic and as one of them always observes, “beautiful” Dooky Chase restaurant.
And the VIP treatment begins, as Mrs. Stella Chase Reese greets them as “gentlemen” and begins in the foyer with a history lesson about the Chase family and the restaurant they created and sustained. The boys were really impressed by the photos of two presidents, Bush and Obama as they dined in the restaurant. Stella has a very quiet, calm delivery and the boys respond with respect and attentiveness as they are invited into the main dining room and given a briefing on Mrs. Chase's expansive collection of African American art (all of which can't fit in the restaurant). We walk through the large meeting room at the rear where she tells about the “shotgun” houses that were combined to expand the restaurant.
Finally we are led to the Gold Room, the smallest dining area at Dooky's where the boys learn that it was the whole restaurant originally and about how segregation at one time meant that “when our people got dressed up and wanted to go someplace nice, they ate in this room.” You could hear a pin drop, as I and our guest of my age (always two responsible adults from each school have official custody) remark that it was where most of us came after our proms. It was an almost audible click as you felt generations connect through this common experience.
Generally this is where we dine, as we did with the boys from Harney, but a scheduling conflict caused Stella to seat the 25 of us from Craig, in the main dining room with their other arriving lunch guest. Oh boy, that never happened before, and I am ashamed of the tiny tingle of apprehension I felt at this more public exposure. (I'm learning) I did walk around to each table to explain that conversation while dining was expected, but that the conversations were to be kept at the table, and if they needed to speak to me or anyone else it was proper to excuse yourself from the table and go to that person's table.
In the past we always stand in place and say our pledge at the end of the meal and we did so in the presence of a misty eyed Mrs Leah Chase at the Harney event, but at the Craig luncheon, since we were in the main dining room, I asked Stella if it would be ok. Well she looked at me as if I were stupid and said of course, ( a lot like her mother) and at that point I knew she was as proud of our boys as we were. They stood, said their pledge and left the restaurant to unanimous applause, and they knew everyone was proud of them.
They were perfect both times, and we expect the same later this month when we take Fischer and Ashe to their respective VIP Luncheons at Dooky Chase. I am sure that almost to a boy, they are looking to have a prom experience at Dooky Chase.
Once A Silverback, Always A Silverback
Now with some five classes of Silverbacks matriculating through society We needed a way for our boys to stay connected to us, for them to always have something to remind them of who they are, their chosen mission and their new tools for getting respect, more and better opportunities and success. So 2000 of these are on the way and at our rate of growth (we have committed to three more campuses next year) they should last about three years.
Hey businesses! Y'all ought to offer a hefty discount to young men who can flash one of these. They are going to make our city a much better place to do business and live. Let me know and I'll put you on our website.
In three to five years the violence in New Orleans is going to take a serious nose dive, and its not going be politicians or police, just young men who know a better way to get their man swag... (and keep it until they get old like me), and all the people who helped our and other boys do the same!
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