Henry English

Hello Friends,
Sadly we are grieving this week, as Illinois, Chicago, Henry Englishand specifically the South Shore community lost one of our greatest leaders to a tragic car accident.  Henry L. English founded and ran the largest African-American self-help organization in the state.  I met Henry in 2009 and he instantly became a father figure to me, who I intimately called “Doc” because he seemingly had the treatments for the ills of black people all around me.  Doc taught me everything about community organizing, activism, politics, and how to build the not-for-profit I had started.  Doc really put my life on the trajectory it is on now, he was the first to heavily invest financially in Lost Boyz; for my time with him I am eternally grateful.  I could go on and on about Doc, but instead I will honor him by sharing a speech I wrote when I was invited by then Governor Quinn and attorney Jeffery Levin to the Statewide Fatherhood Symposium. Henry English you will be greatly missed, although we didn’t always see eye to eye, I will always love and appreciate you like a son to a father.

10/11/14

Annual Fatherhood Symposium – IL Council on Responsible Fatherhood

Throwing Violence a Curveball Speech

Good Morning,

First and foremost I would like to acknowledge and thank those who have given me an opportunity to share today; the IL Council on Responsible Fatherhood, Governor Pat Quinn, Chairman Jeffery Levin, Executive Assistant Zion Banks, and Fr. Michael Phleger and the St. Sabina Community.

Lost Boyz Inc., is an organization focused on recreating, educating, and cultivating vulnerable youth through the platforms of baseball and softball using the tools of organized sports, academic enrichment, cultural enrichment, civic engagement, and service learning.

One of our proudest accomplishments is watching our players in competition successfully deliver and strikeout their opponents with the curve ball.  For those not familiar with baseball vernacular, a curveball is a pitch that is known as a breaking ball because of its 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock trajectory change in its approach to the batter.  It is effective because the batter cannot immediately tell it is a breaking ball; it cleverly deceives its recipient at the last minute by breaking its straight path and sharply dropping towards the ground, often leaving the batter frozen or swinging well over the top of the ball.  On a closer inspection of this phenomenon we can metaphorically frame life and socialization.

The thing is our players, or any player for that matter, was not born throwing a curveball. A coach, a father, a former player took time to give instruction and immense training for that pitcher to master the skill and hone the ability to throw that curve at will.  It is highly scientific, involving physics that dictates how and where the ball will move.  From the grip to the mechanical delivery, there is much necessary and sequential detailing required.

The same it is with life…..Pat Quinn did not wake up one day and say I’m going to be the Governor of Illinois. No! It was a long road of learning, trial and error, hunger, and ultimately mentorship; it was the people around him that invested in him that taught and allowed him to change trajectory to one day become the leader of our great state.  I did not wake up one day and become the Founder of a not-for-profit, a legislative support staffer, community activist, or a public administration grad student with honors at DePaul.  It was development over time thanks to the mentors that God put in my path; people like Henry English, the Founder of the Black United Fund of Illinois, father of self-help in the Black community, lifetime activist and civil rights leader.  Edward L. “Buzz” Palmer, international king and president whisperer, civil rights leader, activist, and Founder of the African-American Patrolmen’s League.  His wife the honorable Dr. Alice Palmer, pioneer education activist, civil rights leader, former state senator and reason we have Barak Obama as President.  And their son, David Robinson, new generational pioneer in community activism and economic development, journalist, and accomplished civil servant that helped introduce recycling to the United States.  When I met these folks I was a struggling father recently home from the Missouri Department of Corrections.  They forever changed my life by teaching me how to throw, the situations in my life and my thinking, a curveball.

And so it is with our youth and their development.  They do not know on their own how to deal with violence, whether as the perpetrator or the victim; they will follow the straight path they see, the natural fastball.  It is when we surround them with mentors and caring people, the life coaches and instructors that can methodically teach them the physics and mechanics, that we see our kids able to change trajectory of the ball midflight and have that pitch drop 12 o’clock to 6.

We expect Shontay to have a baby at 16 because she is in love and following a young thug around.  We expect Marsean to go to jail or be killed because he skips school, walks around with his pants sagging, and doesn’t respect authority or value his education.  But the moment we surround Shontay and Marsean with people like Henry, Buzz, Alice, and David it all changes.  Shontay is then able to build her self-esteem and realize that young thug means her no good, is when she can change that trajectory from unwed teen mom, to college grad 100K a year mom.  The same way Marsean then understands his history and plight, is when he can change trajectory from doomed uneducated thug, to Governor of Illinois and male role model.

And in case you missed it, the undergirding of this radical change were people that are parents, specifically fathers.  As a father we have 3 heavenly mandates, provide, protect, and prepare our families and communities.  It is us who must teach the curveball to reduce violence, it is us who must show our children how to change trajectory midflight……then and only then can our children stand on that pitchers mound prepared for that umpire at home plate to yell out to life’s challenges, including violence, ………BATTER UP!!!