A Successful and Enlightening Year
Keeping seven Silverback Troupes running like clockwork has been our goal for the 2013 - 2014 Silverback Season. If we have produced fewer updates, forgive us, but we were determined not to disappoint either our boys or the volunteers that serve them with such competence and commitment. There were fifty men to coordinate this year, making sure each session was covered and that speakers were scheduled whenever they were needed was an enlightening experience. It has been a year of learning more efficient and effective ways to make that happen, lessons that will be invaluable as we grow.
Seven V.I.P. Luncheons, Without a Glitch
One of the things we always look forward to each year are our V.I.P. Luncheons at historic Dook Chase Restaurant. For many of our Silverback Scholars it is a first time fine dining experience and mentors new to the process are always amazing how attentive and focused our boys are on learning the dos and don'ts of table manners and etiquette.
|Viewing a photograph of President Obama Dining at Dooky Chase|
An important part of the experience is learning the history of Dooky Chase, its role as a place for African Americans to dine in style during segregation and the part it played as a meeting and eating for black celebrities and the father's of the civil rights movement. They are immediately impressed up seeing the photographs of two presidents dining at Dooky's, Bush and Obama who both have visited twice. One of their favorite photographs in the foyer is of President Obama tucking a napkin under his chin in preparation for a bowl of Mrs. Chase's world famous gumbo. Before taking their seats the boys are invited to observe the vast collection of primarily African America art that graces every wall in every room of the restaurant.
|Mrs. Stella Reese, daughter of Mr. and Mrs Chase and manager of operations at the restaurant gives our boys her personal attention and detailed instructions in the proper use of napkins, the various silverware, and proper table manners so that they will be prepared to dine anywhere with any one.|
We want to thank Dooky Chase for the red carpet treatment and Dr. Jerome Medley and businessman Ronnie Burns for each sponsoring one of the seven luncheons this year.
End of Year Celebration Drives The Point Home
Our culminating activity for the last two years has been our End of Year Celebration, where we bring all the Silverback Scholars from all the schools together for a well structured meet and mingle. The four hour event is testament to the capacity of our young men to be respectful of one another and their adult leaders.
As the kids arrived they were staggered in the seats for viewing the film with no schoolmate sitting next to another and each received a ticket with his assigned table number for lunch, where there would be no more than two boys from any school at the same table. They met and engaged in conversation with boys they didn't know, at first uneasily, but by the end they were much more comfortable with one another, as the principle of giving respect to get respect played out over and over in the assemblage.
Charles Rice, CEO of Entergy New Orleans has been a Godsend for our work. He is willing to come speak to the boys. Entergy sponsored the event and they have seen fit two years in a row to sponsor and co brand the high quality booksacks we give the boys each year as a symbol of their continuing educational development. Mr. Rice gave a warm and encouraging welcome to our boys repeating our theme that reverberated all day, how much we need them to succeed.
And then we said the pledge, loudly and proudly. It gave me and I sure everyone else chills, all our boys at the same time, dedicating themselves to future generations.
Then for the next 106 minutes they watched the original “Tuskegee Airman” movie, the joke being on me as I thought I had “Red Tails”. It really didn't matter, the boys became absorbed in the dogfights and the story about strangers coming together and overcoming the odds with excellence and perseverance. Many applauded the screen at the end.
They then went to their assigned tables and in orderly manner table by table went to be served their wonderful and nutritious meal that Lisa Crinel and her staff at Lace the Grand Ballroom had prepared. There was this peaceful calm as young men conversed and went through the buffet line process. No confusion... at all.
Then as they settled in It was my pleasure to introduce our speaker, Kenneth Polite, the U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. I had asked Mr. Polite to share his inspirational personal story of beating the odds and he did a masterful job of weaving those elements into an address that related his current priorities in his role as top cop to his life experiences and the needs of regular people who were trying to have better lives. He challenged them to used their difficulties and challenges to make them stronger and more determined as he had used his and like Rice and every man in the Silverback Society he also drove home how much we needed and are depending on them to succeed.
Norman Robinson, now a Silverback Role Model who also has a compelling personal story, brought a camera man to document this event as the final footage for an in-depth story about our entire process over the duration of our time with the boys this year. It will be aired May 16th on WDSU. As soon we know the time we will advise our readers. Norman asked me to give him two boys to interview, so the first two kids who were willing I sent over to him. His face was glowing with happy surprise after he taped their comments, “Lloyd, these boys really get it... they get it?”. Next year he won't be so surprised.
Then the mentors gave the boys book sacks, after each one turned in a signed agreement that acknowledges that the book bags will always be the property of the Silverback Society, so they cannot be marked up and must only be worn when they are representing our values.
This is about half of the Silverback Society. Due to their responsibilities it is difficult for many to get away for more than that hour they commit each week during Silverback Season, so when we have these longer events some guys come and have to leave or can't make it at all. As I've stated however, we still have not missed a scheduled session, a key factor in our success with these young men who come to trust us because we keep our word. We promised the V.I.P. luncheons and we delivered. We promised to be there every week, and we delivered. We promised book bags and we delivered.
Its a huge "we": these men, our board, our sponsors and contributors, and all those who come when we ask. What part can you play? Visit our website. There you can sign up as a volunteer or make a contribution to support the infrastructure that supports and coordinates these men who show up for children.