Tag Archives: Trentonian

Trenton’s 2nd annual African-American Pride Festival

LA PARKER: TRENTONIAN, FEBRUARY 2, 2012

Things are not always as they may seem.

Take for instance the 1979 smash hit “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” by Gene McFadden and John Whitehead.

The song became an anthem for African-American progress in the United States when actually the music dynamic duo penned the song after legendary music men Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff finally gave McFadden and Whitehead an opportunity to become performers.

Now let’s segue to Trenton, where everyone seems up in arms about another spate of violence, including a gun battle on Route 29 that claimed the life of 23-year-old Daquan Dowling.

If we still lived in album days, oh how I love that scratchy sound of 33 RPMs, this would be where the needle drags across the record.

While violence riles, rants and rivets us, frequently it’s better to look away from the human wreckage to areas where hope springs everlasting, love flourishes, peace whispers and positive thoughts abound.

Lately, my journey places me in the calm eye of a hurricane owning an eye of the tiger attitude, laid up on a bed filled with goose down pillows and tripping about wonderful things occurring in Trenton.

For instance, committees are being formed to produce the city’s second annual Trenton African American Pride Festival at Cadwalader Park.

Our organization attracted thousands during a beautiful day in August 2011. This time around we intend to celebrate an entire week, beginning on Aug. 12 with a kickoff event followed by a week of seminars that include information that can deliver immediate help.

Residents can expect information about criminal record expungement, getting out from under domestic violence and financial issues such as starting a bank account or buying a home.

Yes, we will end with another major party with music, entertainment and food, but our event will improve the quality of life for Trenton residents.

Interested supporters can attend our next meeting on Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Marriott Hotel. A special thanks to everyone who contributed last year and returned for another year.

We acted like a perfect family, fought, criticized, shouted, loved and nearly everyone stuck. Big love for all members.

I can tell you that another group that includes Campfire USA, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Christine’s Hope for Kids, What Kind of Mark Will You Make? and Trenton Housing Authority will host a “Paint Party” at Donnelly Homes on Saturday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Free snacks will be provided, as will an opportunity for kids to paint on gigantic canvases, learn about bullying, laugh and run around.

We are coming to you with love, support and a message that we care deeply about your safety, lives and future.

Trenton Central High School Principal Mark Maurice is organizing a diverse group of students to participate in a cleanup of Columbus Park with Elissa Horan’s Care Trenton effort, while Emily Fisher Charter School President Dallas Dixon expects to create a group of students who intend to make a difference in their Chestnut Avenue neighborhood.

Legions of people who believe in other people are being formed, seeds are being sown while rescues of youth trapped by addiction are underway thanks to organizations like City of Angels.

All my love and support for people like Kevin and Maryann Meara, Kelli Nitti and COA Executive Director Joy Tozzi. We are family.

This may sound like an Academy Award acceptance speech but thanks to Stacey Heading and Bishop Earl Jenkins of True Servant Worship and Praise Ministries and all the work you do with young men.

No telling where Trenton would be without Isles, Inc. headed by Marty and Liz Johnson. Their YouthBuild initiative positively changes lives.

Congratulations to UIH Family Partners, which on Thursday announced it had received a $150,000 New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI): Community Agency Capacity Enhancement grant from Robert Wood Johnson, a gift that will help expand its “Strengthening Families by Strengthening Fathers” initiative.

Come on Trenton. We cannot allow a few people or negative minds to hold us back.

Ain’t No Stopping Us Now or tomorrow.

(Let me know if you, an organization, or church are making a contribution to improving Trenton).

L.A. Parker is a Trentonian columnist. Reach him at laparker@Trentonian.com.

Say it loud, proud Trentonians, and don’t count us out just yet

LA PARKER – TRENTONIAN, AUGUST 22, 2011

In the end, when just about everyone had packed up and gone home, skies over Trenton opened, drenching this capital city with a wonderful downpour.

Rain served as a perfect ending to an incredible day at Cadwalader Park where thousands celebrated the first Trenton African American Pride Festival.

The water seemed to wash clean the city’s slate.

For all the naysayers, doubters, and others who hoped for drama, violence, or some other calamity — nothing happened.

There were no arrests, no fights, no shooting, nothing, except proud black Trentonians, hope-filled African Americans, in full celebration of us and our potential.

Trenton’s African American Pride Festival celebrated our national anthem and black national anthem, flew the American flag and flags of African nations.

I firmly believe that a small injection of pride into city streets where people have almost yielded to crime, self-loathing, poverty and have stepped away from education, can begin to turn the tide here.

This is a message for all the haters — don’t count Trenton out just yet.

The soul of Trenton remains up for grabs, caught up in a demilitarized zone of perhaps and never; purity versus corruption; simple love and irrational hatred.

Regardless the obstacles, no matter how much people talk or even BackTalk, nothing will stop a second festival or a movement that will saturate Trenton with positive energy.

Standing together with Mayor Tony Mack in a sun-drenched patch of Cadwalader Park green earth, I told the city’s leader that Trenton’s future remains in his hands and that it’s time for him to shake free of all the people that damage whatever credibility he has left.

Mack is fortunate that the Trenton African American Pride Festival occurred under his watch and the mayor has every right to claim this event on his resume.

Trenton pulsed with amazing energy and with city pride sizzling like an isotope, it’s time for Mayor Mack to make a decision about the direction of his leadership.

Certainly, Mack and the City of Trenton coming aboard for the TAAPF provided immeasurable support but our committee aligned with city winners like Isles, Inc., former Mayor Douglas H. Palmer’s Trenton First Initiative, Plant a Seed Foundation, Mercer County, Mercer County Community College, Tara Developers, New Jersey Department of Corrections, Marriott Hotel, Christine’s Hope for Kids Foundation and many others.

In other words, this effort cultivated a collaboration between a variety of sources albeit not all like-minded.

Alienations remain as most Caucasians stayed away from the TAAPF just as most African Americans alienate from the Italian-American Festival or celebrations of other ethnicities.

I still believe we should consider ourselves first children of God, then human, next American and finally recognize our heritage.

Maybe we will get there someday but I will tell you that the TAAPF ratcheted up my pride level.

Now, it’s time to build on this event and move Trenton in a positive direction.

Never mind the verbal opposition.

We can and will together create unimaginable successes.

Just watch.

— L.A. Parker is a Trentonian columnist and staff writer. His column appears on Tuesday and Thursday. Reach him at laparker@Trentonian.com.

Trenton African-American Pride Festival pays tribute to late police director Ernie Williams

TRENTONIAN STAFF, TRENTONIAN, AUGUST 19, 2011

TRENTON — Organizers of the city’s first Trenton African-American Pride Festival said Friday that they needed no extra incentive, but the death of a supporter and committee member Ernie Williams added energy.

“I know everybody involved has given their heart and soul to get this event off the ground,” said Trentonian writer L.A. Parker, who founded today’s event. “We have worked real hard and endured the growing pains connected with any first-time event. But here we are, just hours away.

“The passing of Mr. Williams hurt us to our core because he provided us with inspiration. Ernie is our connector to a the past when most African-Americans had pride in every aspect of their lives. Trust me, Ernie’s death has supercharged our committee. He is forever connected to this event.”

Williams, 77, passed away Wednesday night following a brief but lethal bout with brain and lung cancer.

Despite his serious condition, Williams managed to attend Trenton African American Pride Festival meetings, sometimes even after chemotherapy treatments.

“He never let on how bad he was. Ernie just kept getting up each morning and doing his thing,” said his daughter, Cheryl Griffith.

The city’s first black police chief immediately signed on with the festival, saying he supported any effort to restore pride to a city suffering serious social and economic deterioration.

“It’s so bittersweet,” said Yolanda Robinson, the festival spokesperson. “I feel like crying and smiling at the same time because Mr. Williams is gone. But we got to share this event with him. We had his support and that meant so much.”

Williams joined Trenton’s police force in 1963 then used his hard work ethic to rise through the ranks. In 1990, Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer selected Williams as his public safety director.

Williams retired in 1999 but returned 11 years later to lead city officers as a favor to newly inaugurated Mayor Tony Mack. When their deal soured, and it soured bigtime, Williams walked away after only several months on the job.

Despite his resignation, Trenton’s first black police chief maintained his high level of both street cred and within police rank and file.

Williams built a legend as being a cop’s cop.

“It’s been rather somber around headquarters, but just about every officer here has special memories of Chief Williams,” one city cop said. “Chief Williams meant different things to different people. I’m sure that every individual person has a different memory about him — all good.”

Andrew Bobbitt, president of the “Never Give Up” program, called Williams a champion, teacher and supporter.

“He was a mentor to me. When I first met him, he used to tell me to be a positive person and stay out of trouble. Ernie was the first person I ran to when I needed advice. I’m amazed each time I read his biography. This guy was the first in so many things,” Bobbitt said.

“Ernie Williams was straight by the book. He had integrity and that one characteristic gained him some city enemies. But for most, his honesty made him special because (Williams) spoke truth.”

“Never Give Up” presented Williams with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” earlier this year.

Trenton African-American Pride Festival logistics co-chair Karriem Beyah laughed about his initial meeting with Williams.

“I first met Ernie at the YMCA. We were both at the sit-up bench because Ernie was a situp fanatic. We played handball together, too,” Beyah said. “To have him on our festival committee? Man, that was a great inspiration. Still is a great inspiration.”