NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Fifty men and women, primarily from the African-American community in New Rochelle, came to a meeting last night at the Remington Boys & Girls Club hosted by The Gathering of Men, a new organization in New Rochelle. Among those attending was New Rochelle Council Member Jared Rice, State Assemblyman and Senator-Elect George Latimer, Rev. Richard Adamson of the Gospel Tabernacle Church, and NAACP President Ron Williams.
The Gathering of Men was founded late last year with a mission to promote individual growth and empowerment among adult and young males, improve the lives of youth and their families and confront the issues plaguing the African-American community through mentoring, male presence and leadership roles in the community.
Mark McLean, a long-time leader in the African-American community in New Rochelle, was the Master of Ceremonies.
"Our main message," said McLean "is that we are here for the community, that we will help you any way that we can."
Rev. Richard Adamson, pastor of Gospel Tabernacle Church on Lincoln Avenue, stressed the need for the community to come together with a commitment to a specific, positive vision for change.
"We come that our needs be met but we are not just going to oppose," said Rev. Adamson who stressed calm discourse and being part of the democratic system.
"Make up your minds that you're going to vote," said Adamson.
Council Member Jared Rice, a founding member of The Gathering of Men, picked up on that theme. He spoke of the need to empower men in the black community by bringing together those opposed to the status quo.
"One thing I have learned on City Council," said Rice. "Is that things don't happen overnight but that the process can be expedited when the community comes together."
Rice played a key role in the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority's NY Youth Works Construction Training Program which recently graduated 14 young people from their program. He stressed the importance of job training and job qualifications.
"I am for jobs for the community," said Rice. "But we need qualified, trained, experienced people for those jobs."
Many in the audience were looking for answers beyond youth training programs. They wanted to know about job opportunities for adults on current and near-term future development projects in New Rochelle, in particular the Heritage Homes which are replacing the Hartley Houses in the heart of Rice's district.
Darrell Perez, a construction liaison for The Gathering of Men, recalled that the groundbreaking for Heritage Homes there was talk of 60 jobs and minority contractors during Phase One but those jobs and contracts failed to materialize for New Rochelle residents.
Ronald Payne, a member of the International Laborers Union, pointed out that under Resolution 205, the City's Non Discrimination and Equal Opportunity policy passed by the City Council in 1996, developers are under various requirements with regard to minority hiring if City funds are used for a development project in New Rochelle. There was an energetic discussion on whether 205 applied to the Heritage Homes development but no definite answer.
Glenice Reavis asked how residents were being kept informed of employment opportunities from local development projects and how they were being advised on how to avail themselves of opportunities.
Jeffrey Charles wanted to know whether the Hartley House and Heritage Homes property was City property and whether that might obligate the developers to do more with local hiring. Marguirite Hernandez raised similar concerns.
Assemblyman George Latimer offered to be of assistance as the Heritage Homes project moved into Phase 2.
Council Member Rice sought to reconcile the need to qualify residents for certain jobs through training and the desire among many to secure commitments for jobs for qualified workers on Phase 2 of Heritage Homes and future projects like the new Beechwood Avenue City Yard project.
Rice took notes and offered to help get answers to the many questions raised and discussed at the meeting including the question of whether Resolution 205 applied to the developers and contractors of Heritage Homes and information as to the ownership of the underlying property.
The Gathering of Men
The organization is looking to attract new members.
Members believe that men of color have been under represented in important facets of society and that the solution is to come together in order to insure that their concerns are not overlooked or ignored.
Recognizing that African-American male youths are at-risk in our society in part due to the absence of male guidance and leadership in the home and the community, the organization seeks to develop approaches and solutions that foster the growth of healthy minds and stronger families.
Specific areas of focus are jobs, education, home ownership, financial stability and community involvement.
The organization seeks to generate a community of responsible men through mentoring, male presence at community events, support networks and creating leadership roles for members in community issues and events.
The Gathering of Men meets every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at 99 Lincoln Avenue. For further information send an email to [email protected]