If the turnout at the MLK Prayer Breakfast is any indication, there's solid support in Prince George's County for the formation of a new chapter of 100 Black Men.
The breakfast, held Saturday, March 31, at the District Heights Municipal Center on Marbury Drive, attracted about 350 black men and 50 women and was a combination recognition, networking and kick-off event by the 100 Black Men of Prince George's County Interest Group. Jerry McLaurin, who initiated the interest group, said he was overwhelmed by the attendance.
"I had no idea we would have this big of a turnout," said McLaurin.
The group submitted its application to form a chapter to the national office of 100 Black Men in Atlanta on March 9. Steven E. Morris, one of the members of the interest group, said he anticipates the national office will notify them of their status in June during the organization's national convention in Atlanta.
"I am positive we are going to be chartered," said Morris.
"This is the right time in Prince George's County for this organization to be birthed," said Dr. Terry Nelson, master of ceremony of the event. "We know we can impact and make a difference in this county and collectively we are going to do that."
Nelson said the proposed new chapter planned to work closely with the Washington, Baltimore and Anne Arundel County chapters. The presidents of two of the chapters also were in attendance.
"It's time for men to step up to the plate and take their rightful place in what needs to be done," said Nelson. "We are setting the example and leading the pace toward the success we want to see."
Nelson added that the interest group was not sitting idle while it waits for disposition of its application and planned to hold fundraising and other events.
The event's keynote speaker Michael Lyles, executive director of the Prince George's County Human Relations Commission, spoke to the group about a number of issues including "advancing our community, repositioning it, rebranding it." He said one of the roles 100 Black Men could serve is explaining disparities that exist in black community to young boys so they better understand the realities.
"We must do a better job of training children toward constructive life options," said Lyles.
According to information in the breakfast program, the interest group first met in January. "We looked at a number of areas where we could have an impact such as reducing our drop-out rate and the number of young people who are incarcerated, addressing the health and wellness of our young population, preparing our young men for the workforce and to be college ready, and having an overall influence on the personal development and growth of our young men," it states.
District Heights Vice Mayor Eddie Martin referred to the event as "larger than large. I say that because on this historic occasion we here in Prince George's County are setting out to acquire a chapter of 100 Black Men. I think it's outstanding."
During the event, the mentoring and leadership efforts of three community members were also recognized. Levet Brown, president of the Laurel Boys & Girls Club; Reginald Harrod, chief executive officer of Suitlandfest CDC; and Jerrod Mustaf, executive director of Take Charge Juvenile Diversion Program, were presented with community service awards.
Saturday's event featured prayers by Minister Archie Byrd, Dr. Yvonne Felton of First Baptist Church of Highland Park and Deacon Bill Jones of First Baptist Church of Glenarden. Musical selections were provided by Renee' Allen, Joe Colemen, Michael Winans and the group Bondage to Freedom.
Several vendors had booths at the breakfast including Jafra cosmetics, Wells Fargo, Allstate and a number of artists.