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International Human Trafficking Conference exposes, fights the dark world of sex trade

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International Human Trafficking Conference | The Toledo Journal
Dr. Celia Williamson, left, director of the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, talks to conference attendees, Dr. Jesse Bach, and Lisa Belton.

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

“Purchasing someone online, from the dark web, for sex trafficking, is as easy as buying a pizza,” Dr. Jesse Bach, of Cleveland State University, told The Toledo Journal. Dr. Bach, on long with numerous professionals from around the world, presented their research about Human Trafficking, and how to combat it, during a two day conference, held on Thursday, September 20, and Friday, September 21, in the University of Toledo’s, Lancelot Thompson, Student Union.

Over 100 workshops were conducted addressing issues either, indigenous to Toledo, and the United States, or more specifically, in countries such as India, or on the continents of Europe, and Africa.

Several workshop topics were, “Romance and Manipulation,” “Characteristics of Federal Offenders Sentenced for Child Molestation and Sentencing Outcomes,” “Early Childhood Sexual Abuse and Foster Care: A Survivors Perspective,” and “Parents as Perpetrators: Intergenerational Sex Trafficking in Rural India.”

Dr. Celia Williamson, director of the Lucas County Human Traffic Coalition said the ripple effect of the conference has been felt around the world. Laws have been enacted, task forces developed, and programs put into place to help victims, and apprehend perpetrators. One of her goals, she said, is to live stream the conference in parts of the world, such as Africa, that’s plagued with human trafficking,

On the topic of the local Pastors accused of human trafficking, Dr. Williamson said, some church members seem to be more concerned with how the girls, who were trafficked, contributed to their situation, as opposed to the fact that Pastors were involved with underage girls for the sex trade.

“No matter what, the lives of the children come first. If the Pastors are found guilty, some can pray that their souls go to heaven, but their asses are going to jail,” she said.

Motivated by the fact that her stepfather was a human trafficker, was a social worker who, asked that her identity be kept anonymous. She said she grew up watching her stepdad manipulate, and abuse her mom. She learned first-hand the tactics, and language used by perpetrators of human trafficking.

“Traffickers will say things such as, ‘No one else will take care of you, or your daughter, but me.’ Traffickers will also become the main supplier of toys, school supplies, and other things, in a child’s life, in order to keep the mom dependent, and loyal to him.”

Dr. Tyffani Manford Dent, a licensed psychologist, has been working in the field of sex trafficking for over 20 years, conducted a workshop on, “Not #MeToo: How Gender-based Work and Micro/Macro-aggressions Impede Trafficking Survivors of Color from Accessing Services.”

International Human Trafficking Conference | The Toledo Journal
Dr. Tyffani Manford-Dent explains how the #MeToo movement has intentionally neglected African American women who are victims of sex crimes.

She explained that, although the #MeToo movement was developed by an African American woman, for African American women, once it went nationally, and accepted by white women, African American women haven’t gained the benefits of it.

Dr. Manford-Dent said the services, and benefits that have come about, due to the movement, have been geared toward white women.

Counseling, and other services for the victims of any type of sexual crime, has been established in white suburban areas. Even those who work in the field are recruited from white suburban areas, Dr. Manford-Dent said.

“Sadly, some survivors lives, white suburban women, are more valued then African American women who are survivors of sex crimes; which is all deliberate,” she said.

“The first step at resolving this problem is recognizing it exist; only then can we move forward to resolution,” Dr. Manford-Dent said.

Twenty five under 45 receive “Black Lives Matter” Awards

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CSRN members at the Black Lives Matter Awards are (back L-R) Kwinlyn Tyler, Hadgu Hadgn, Gwen Wilson, Brother Washington Mohammad, Vanessa Avery, Brittany Moore, Ruth Leonard, and Julian Mack, (front L-R) Jodie Summers, Connor Kelly, Myriesha Barber and Gina Frye.

Last Saturday, February 23, 2019, the Community Solidarity Responses Network (CSRN) presented the “Black Lives Matter Awards at the Fredrick Douglass Center. With a theme titled, “25 under 45”, the group celebrated 25 African Americans members of the Toledo community under the age of 45, who are working to improve Toledo’s communities.

Janece Wooley, The Interim Executive Director of the Fredrick Douglass Community Center welcome audience to the Black Lives Matter Awards.

CSRN member Julian Mack said, “We are having this program tonight because it’s important that we reaffirm the positive things that are being done in the community. We want to encourage the younger people in the next generation that’s coming up to continue to do the right thing. Often times, we only hear about the negative things that are going on. When in reality there’s plenty of positive things happening as well.”

Mr. Mack continued by explaining, “We want to reaffirm and lift up those who are doing positive things so that can continue to happen. We want to let them know and recognize them for their efforts, so that more people will hopefully decide, to do the right thing.”

The 25 awardee recipients, were Dave Ross, Danny Ricardi, Timothy V. Pettaway, Patrice McClellen, Keisha Snow-Veley, RaShya Ghee, Leigh Utley, Tiara Armstrong, Lonnie Ghee, Sheena Barnes, Nia Snelling, Veralucia Mendoza, Khadirah Muhammad, Rob Pasker, Lance Self, Mike Rob, Marcus Boyd, Tina Butts, Derrick Brooks, Terrence Pounds Sr., Kwilyn Tyler, Blair Johnson, Montrice Terry, Zia Cooke and Tony Barnes.

Awardees (left to right) Lance Self, Khadirah Muhammad, Timothy V. Pettaway Jr, RaShya Ghee, Terrence Pounds Sr., Blair Johnson, Tiara Armstrong, Montrice Terry, and Dave Ross.

Brother Washington Mohammad, one of the founding members of CSRN added, “We had this program because, we wanted to highlight just some ordinary people in our community, doing some extraordinary things. A lot of people may not have heard of these young men and woman, who are doing wonderful things, so it’s up to us to lift each other up.”

The Black Lives Matter social movement materialized out of a community need, and is today’s core civil rights movement. Just like the original civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter has put a national spotlight on an injustice, and by doing so has somewhat reduced the problem.

When asked where did CSRN come from, CSRN member Ruth Leonard replied, ”The Black Lives Matter movement in Toledo started after the lack of conviction in the case of Michael Brown. After which people in the city were looking for a way to uplift each other and out of that effort the Community Solidarity Responses Network came in to existence.

The Community Solidarity Responses Network meets every Tuesday at 7:30 pm at the Paul-win Center at 1416 Nebraska Ave.

They also may be contacted through the following methods:
Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo
Phone 419-329-8177
csrntoledo@gmail.com
1416 Nebraska Ave
Toledo, OH 43607

Facebook: Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo, Instagram: CSRNToledo,YouTube: Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo, Twitter: @CSRN Toledo, and Gmail: csrntoledo@gmail.com

Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes

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Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes | The Toledo Journal
Ambassador, and spokesman for Books 4 Buddies, Mondo Arce, right, and Jordan Topoleski, read to the children.

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

“I don’t let me kids read from the internet, unless it’s school related. I want them reading from an actual book,” Maryah McIntosh told The Toledo Journal on Wednesday, July 25.

Ms. McIntosh was one of many parents, who attended Books 4 Buddies event, held at the Weiler Homes, on Toledo’s east side. Throughout the year, the organization hosts similar events around Toledo. The object is to encourage literacy through reading actual books. The event was a collaboration between Toledo Public Schools (TPS) and Lucas County Metropolitan Housing (LMHA).

Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes | The Toledo Journal
Leticia Bermejo said, “I want my son, Xavier Johnson, to love reading like I do. So I thought this event would be good to further encourage him.”

In addition to giving away books, free food, face painting, games, and a boxing lesson made up the day’s agenda.

Mondo Arce, 17, is the spokesperson, as well as an Ambassador for Books 4 Buddies.

“Events like this are so important,” he said. “When you read from a book, instead of your phone, you avoid distractions like texts messages, social media updates, etc. Although books may be considered old fashion, they still work. And it’s important that kids have role models encouraging, and showing them the importance of reading a book,” Mondo said.

Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes | The Toledo Journal
Dr. Romules Durant, superintendent for Toledo Public Schools, and Laneta Goings, founder/president of Books 4 Buddies discuss ways of encouraging children to read during the summer months.

Jordan Topoleski, 18, is also an Ambassador for Books 4 Buddies. He said that, many people may not have the resources to buy and keep books in their homes; therefore, their effort helps fill a much needed void.

“Over the years since I’ve been in the program, I’ve got a better perspective on the entire city, and not just where I live,” he said.

 

Books 4 Buddies has give-away for students at LMHA Weiler Homes | The Toledo Journal

Joaquin Centron Vega is vice president of assets management for LMHA. He said, “We like to take pride in our community by helping to provide positive things for it, especially for the children.”

“This event encourages kids to read during the summer months,” said Dr. Romules Durant, superintendent for TPS. “We’re always looking for ways to encourage literacy,” he said.

Pastor Melvin Barnes celebrates seventeenth Pastoral Anniversary

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The Toledo Journal Greater Faith Fellowship
From left are Pastor Melvin, and his wife, and co-Pastor, Jeanette Barnes, and Robin Wilson, fiancée to Pastor Floyd Smith Jr. of Calvary Baptist Church.

By Journal Staff Writer

Greater Faith Fellowship Church, 1544 S. Byrne Rd, celebrated the anniversary of their Pastor, Melvin Barnes, as their leader of 17 years. Held on Sunday, May 27th, the milestone event featured local leaders delivering the Word of God, and given testimony about the character of Pastor Barnes.

Patrice Poellnitz, lead trustee, told The Toledo Journal the anniversary celebration started on May 20 when some of the members of Friendship Baptist Church attended the service, while their Pastor, Bishop Dwayne Tisdale, delivered the Word.

May 27th featured two services. Elder Stephen Bufford of Greater Faith Fellowship delivered the morning’s keynote address, while the afternoon service was conducted by Pastor Floyd Smith, Jr. of Calvary Baptist Church.

“Our theme is ‘honoring the leader that watches over our soul,’ and the success of our destiny comes from our Pastor,” Ms. Poellnitz said.

During Pastor Barnes’ 17 year tenor, Ms. Poellnitz said she has seen a tremendous growth in her spiritual development.

“Trust in God, and put Him first in your life, and you will see changes in your life,” she said.

“I’m speechless, and impressed,” Pastor Barnes said, regarding the work put into the celebration. “They put a lot of work into this event, with very little assistance from me,” he said.

Pastor Barnes said that although the congregation is young, they were able to successfully plan and execute the anniversary that people from much more experienced congregations, would be able to do, and that he said, made him proud of his members.

Greater Faith Fellowship Church’s future plans include reestablishing themselves in the inner city in order to better serve the community.

“By having a church, within the inner city, we’ll be able to be a bigger blessing to the community,” Pastor Barnes said.

City of Toledo hosts Annual Pumpkin-A-Rama

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City of Toledo Pumpkinarama | The Toledo Journal

By Michelle Martin, Journal Staff

Toledo citizens gathered together as parents, goblins, fairies, and  princesses at Ottawa Park on Saturday, October 20th, at the Liz Pierson Open Air Shelter in Ottawa Park from noon until 2 p.m. This was the 10th Annual Pumpkin-A-Rama sponsored by The City of Toledo’s Department of Recreation.

Phyllis Johnson, who has attended a few Pumpkin-A-Rama events in the past says, “I love when the time comes around for the Pumpkin-A-Rama. Its just an awesome, awesome  for the family. And I’m enjoying it!”

City of Toledo Pumpkinarama | The Toledo Journal

A mother who attended for the very first time, Kaitlynne Grey,  says “It’s nice. Really nice. The kid’s favorite part was the horse ride. They really enjoyed it.”

Children and even a few adults were dressed in Halloween costumes to take advantage of the FREE festivities provided by the City of Toledo. Families could ride in a horse carriage around the park. Free pumpkins and apples were given to the community and candy was collected as an early trick or treat! There was also a line for buttery popcorn, donuts of many tastes (including apple donuts!). Of course there was a line for the famous fall drink, apple cider.

City of Toledo Pumpkinarama | The Toledo Journal

DJ services were provided by Michael Baginski from Decorative Sound, which kept the Pumpkin-A-Rama fun and relaxed. Children and adults danced to many songs and DJ Michael Baginski’s voice over kept the crowd hype, happy, and involved.

Toledo’s FREE Pumpkin-A-Rama is planned and put together each year by The City of Toledo Department of Parks and Recreation. All food and drinks were purchased from various vendors.

City of Toledo Pumpkinarama | The Toledo Journal

City of Toledo Pumpkinarama | The Toledo Journal
Rihanna_knighten, age 3, stands with her big brother, Romaile Knighten, age 7

Aaron Meyers, Division Supervisor of Department of Recreation explained, “The purpose of this event is to bring the community out and to enjoy the fall atmosphere. We just want to bring smiles to kids’ faces and have a family-fun event that all citizens of Toledo can enjoy together.”

AOA Senior Safari at Toledo Zoo

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AOA Senior Safari at Toledo Zoo | The Toledo Journal

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

For 25 years, the Area Office on Aging, AOA, along with their community partners, have been hosting the Senior Safari at the Toledo Zoo. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle, while re-visiting the zoo, all in an entertaining environment is the purpose of the event. But for 2018, participants received much more when the entertainment on Tuesday, September 18, was Motown’s The Vandellas.

AOA Senior Safari at Toledo Zoo | The Toledo Journal
Billie Johnson, President/CEO of AOA, welcomes the seniors to the event, while Jerry Anderson, retired media personality, and the Master of Ceremony, looks on.

Before being entertained by the legends of Motown, Billie Johnson, President/CEO of AOA, told The Toledo Journal that attendees were first, encouraged to participate in a one mile walk around the zoo. September is “Falls Prevention Month,” she said, and the walk is to bring awareness to falls, and ways to prevent them. Also, the walk encouraged exercising, as one of the ways to help build muscle, and bone, both of which, could help decrease the chances of falling.

“We’re hoping those who participate in the walk, each take at least 10,000 steps today,” Mrs. Johnson said. “One of our partners, Silver Sneakers, donated 100 pedometers, so seniors can keep track of their steps,” she said.

Sarah Vandevender, a pharmacist, said, various things can contribute to falls, such as dizziness. Some medications, as well as having low sodium, and potassium, could increase the chances of falling. Low magnesium, she said, could lead to muscle cramps, which could also increase the chances of falling.

AOA Senior Safari at Toledo Zoo | The Toledo Journal
Pete Peterson rolled the dice to see what exercise he had to do. Lunges weren’t a problem for him, being that he works out regularly.

“Always, speak to your pharmacist, or primary care physician, first, about taking preventive measures,” she said.

Following the one mile walk, Silver Sneakers, had four stations set up along the route to the Malawi Event Center, where vendors, lunch, and the performance by The Vandellas would take place. At each station, seniors would roll large dice that had six different exercises on each side. Jumping jacks, lunges, and leg lifts, were among some of the exercises that participants were encourage to do. Every senior that participated in an exercise, at each station, would receive a free gift.

AOA Senior Safari at Toledo Zoo | The Toledo Journal
The Vandellas made their way through the crowd, people stood up and danced, including Billie Johnson, President/CEO of AOA, seen on the left.

Once inside the Malawi Center, numerous vendors focusing on healthy lifestyle, or services offered to seniors, passed out information about what they offered, gave health screenings, or distributed free fruit.

After a healthy lunch, attendees were treated to 30 minute performance by The Vandellas, in which many seniors could be seen dancing to the group’s songs.

AOA Senior Safari at Toledo Zoo | The Toledo Journal
Lucy Mayer had to get a dance in with the Vandellas.

At the entrance into the zoo, seniors prepare for their one mile walk. The goal of the day was each walker tries to reach 10,000 steps.

United Missionary Baptist Church celebrates 35th anniversary

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United Missionary Baptist Church celebrates 35th anniversary | The Toledo Journal
The Anniversary Committee with, from left, guest speaker, Pastor Roderick Pounds, Rev. Robert Bass, senior pastor, and Julia Holt, founding member, and chairperson of the Trustee Board.

By Journal Staff Writer

For 35 years, the members of United Missionary Baptist Church, 2705 Monroe St, have been worshipping God, and inviting others to that worship. On Sunday, October 14, they celebrated their 35th anniversary by recognizing how far they’ve advanced as a congregation, and where they still, have yet to go.

Participating in the celebration were some of the members of Second Baptist Church in Akron, Ohio. Their Pastor, Roderick Pounds served as the keynote speaker.

Spearheading that celebration was Julia Holt, chairperson of the Trustee Board, and charter member of United Missionary Baptist Church. She told The Toledo Journal what keeps her actively involved at her church. “The members are very loving, and we work well together, plus, they have a genuine love for God,” she said.

As an extension to their anniversary celebration, the members hosted an afternoon fundraiser to further continue church renovations, as well as add to their scholarship fund, and continue their community outreach programs.

Entitled, “A Taste of Culture,” the fundraiser consisted of members of the church dividing up in four groups, with each group taking one of four regions, of the United States. The group then, preparde dishes that are indigenous to that particular region. Attendees would have the opportunity to taste those particular dishes. Further, each group would highlight the history of African Americans from that particular region of the country.

Rev. Robert Bass has been the head Pastor for 15 years. He said the anniversary celebration gives the members the opportunity to reflect on the challenges of the past 35 years, which helps them better map out, their future endeavors.

“One of the biggest obstacles we had to overcome is paying off a 30 year mortgage, in 16 years, with less people than we originally had,” he said. Rev. Bass said that being free of a mortgage, frees up the minds of the congregation, and puts them in a better position to focus on outreach programs, for example.

Rev. Bass further stated that, one of his short term objectives is having the church serve as a technological, and community focal point. “I want this church to be the center piece of the community, where people can come turn to, and get any kind of help they need,” he said.

A King’s first Queen hosted by MLK Academy for Boys

A King’s first Queen hosted by MLK Academy for Boys
LaTasha Poole and her son Marvell Curtis boogie on down the Soul Train line. Marvell began reminding his mother, regularly, one month prior to the event.

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

Heading into the week of the Third Annual Mother/Son Dance, with the theme, ”A King’s first Queen,” which was held on Friday, May 11, at Martin Luther King Academy for Boys, 1300 Forest Avenue, the halls, and classrooms were filled with chatter about the upcoming dance. Overly excited boys constantly talked about what they and their mothers were going to wear, according to Sheila Cook, planner of the event, and community family resource coordinator, at the school.

Willie Ward, left, principal, and William White, assistant principal, show the boys they still know how to dance.

As the mothers were escorted in by their kings, both walked down a red carpet leading into the gymnasium, where the event was being held. And similar to red carpet events in Hollywood, both had the opportunity to pose for the paparazzi’s pictures.

The king, and his first queen, would do line and slow dances, as well as the always popular party favorite Soul Train line, before finally sitting down to a catered dinner by J’Maes Home Cooking.

A King’s first Queen hosted by MLK Academy for Boys
Lanette Peacock, and her son William, show off their dance moves. Ms. Peacock said going into the event, her son wouldn’t stop talking about it.

Ms. Cook told The Toledo Journal that since the school was for boys, it would be a good idea to have a mother/son dance. And since it was two days before Mother’s Day, it would also be a good idea to serve dinner; a type of early Mother’s Day gift, Ms. Cook said.

Lanette Peacock was with her son William. She also has two girls, and doesn’t get to spend as much time as she would like with William.

“This is so awesome,” she said. I really love attending this event with him. All week, he was so excited about it, and kept constantly reminding me about the dance. As long as he’s attending, we will be coming,” Ms. Peacock said.

A King’s first Queen hosted by MLK Academy for Boys
A total of 140 kings, and their first queens were in attendance; a number that grows yearly.

LaTasha Poole was with her son Marvell Curtis. She said he started talking about the dance a month ago, and didn’t stop reminding her about the event.

“I love it,” she said. “We come every year, and it gets better and better,” Ms. Poole said.

Willie Ward, principal, said, “The moms are always there for their sons to help with their education, and just to love them; so tonight is for both the moms and their sons. Here, at Martin Luther King Academy for Boys, one of our objectives is to teach the boys how to treat, and respect a woman,” he said.

Indiana Missionary Baptist Church celebrates the 73rd Anniversary

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Indiana Missionary Baptist Church celebrates the 73rd Anniversary The Toledo Journal

By Michael Daniels
Journal Staff Reporter

For two Sundays in a row, February 17 and 24th, Indiana Missionary Baptist Church celebrated its 73rd Anniversary with an afternoon service at the church. On the 17th, Rev. Dr. Jerry Boose from Second Baptist church was the main speaker. On the 24th, Rev. Dr. Willie Perryman from Jerusalem Baptist Church did the honors. Both ministers brought members of their congregations, as well as, their church choirs to join in on the celebration.

The theme of this year’s program was from Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything, Instead Pray about everything,” This theme was most appropriate because it reaches back to Indiana Missionary Baptist Churches humble beginnings.

It was in the mid-forties when Rev. W. J. Stephenson, the pastor of Central Baptist Church in north Toledo realized that his church was going to lose its property due to an upcoming freeway project that was going to slice through the heart of north Toledo. He became worried that many of his parishioners that lived in the central city would have a difficult time getting to church after the expressway was built.

Faced with this dilemma, Rev. Stephenson did what a man of God should do! He turned to his Heavenly Father for help, and his help came. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he decided to resign his position as pastor of Central Baptist and open a new church in the central city where the majority of African Americans lived during that time period. He then contacted a fellow pastor, the Rev. E. J. Benton along with some established church Deacons, Trustee, pastors, church Mothers and other church-going people for a meeting.

At this meeting which took place on February 20, 1946, at 819 Ewing Street in the central city, Indiana Missionary Baptist Church was officially organized and Rev. W. J. Stephenson became the church’s first pastor. This was a position he would maintain until he passed away in July of 1959. Also present at this meeting were a group of teenagers, and unbeknownst to everyone at the time in this group, was one who was the new church’s hope of the future. A young man by the name of John E. Roberts who was there that night, would grow up, and one day become one of Indiana’s most influential and beloved ministers.

As the new church progressed it quickly began to grow and it wasn’t too long before everyone became aware that they were going need a larger space to properly worship the Lord. Now they had a mission fulfill. So, they started a building fund to build a new church building. Soon enough money was raised to purchase a property at 640 Indiana Ave. 

Missionary Baptist Church celebrated a mission fulfilled as they marched singing God’s praises all the way from the old building on Ewing Street to the new one on Indiana Avenue. Since that time the congregation has continued to grow and so has the original structure. In time came the addition of a ground level sanctuary, the upper-level sanctuary, the Stephenson-Roberts Hall and a spacious parking lot to accommodate its large growing congregation.

Since the passing of the founder, Rev. W. J. Stephenson in 1959, the church has had several pastors including the Rev. T. Wiggins in 1960, and the Rev. F. H. Alexander 1961 through 1963.

On January 21, 1965, the young teenager, who attended that first organizational meeting in 1946, the Rev. John E. Roberts became Indiana’s fourth pastor. He later elevated his status in ministry by graduating from the Toledo Bible College in 1975 and was Valedictorian of his class. From this point on he became known as Rev. Dr. John E. Roberts.

Under his leadership, Indiana Missionary Baptist Church has become one of the most influential churches in the city. They are known for their community involvement for reaching out and helping others.

As for Pastor Roberts, he is a minister who lives his ministry, 24 hours a day, in and out of the pulpit. If you meet him out in the world, he’s probably going to ask you two questions. One, ‘your name,’ and two, “are you saved’? He’s a man who understands that his main purpose in life is to help us ordinary folks find out way into God’s grace and into his heaven.

At his church, he is a continual inspiration to others and has also mentored dozens of young men in the field of ministry, many who have gone on to have their own churches.

As the church celebrates its 73rd anniversary, he had these words of divine wisdom for his congregation, he said, “Truly God has blessed us and smiled upon us, and I thank Him for it. We must never forget that Central Baptist gave birth to Indiana. Thank God for Rev. W. J. Stephenson and the pioneers like him that were with him paving the way. We must constantly pray for our church and its ministry of redemption in a lost world as we constantly live our lives in a way that honors Christ and his teaching.”

Junior High Afro-Ball; a graduation into maturity

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The Toledo Journal | Junior High Afro-Ball
Being sharply dressed didn’t stop, from left, Dmarea Rankin, Julius Akins, Jaylon Akins, and Damond Robinson from dancing.

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

Although at first glance, the 35th annual Junior High Afro-Ball may seem like it’s just a dance, but according to organizers, it’s much deeper than a dance; it’s a graduation into maturity.

Over 950 students throughout the Toledo Metropolitan Area, and representing Toledo Public Schools, Charter, and Parochial, attended the annual event held at the Seagate Convention Center in downtown Toledo, on Saturday, May 19. Themed, “The future belongs to those who prepare,” the ball was just the icing on the cake, with preparations beginning months in advance.

Junior High Afro-Ball

Weeks leading up to the ball, letters were sent out to area high schools asking the principals to nominate two students, who would represent their school, at the 2018 Afro-Ball. A total of 40 kids, from 20 different schools were then invited, along with their parents, to attend a banquet at Scott High School, days before the event. Students were celebrated for their character, and accomplishments. Both students, and parents were reminded that Grace Community Center, and their partners, wanted to work with the students the coming year, as well as throughout high school, in order to better prepare them for college, or being career ready. Then, while at the ball, those 40 students had a special VIP section reserved for them.

Junior High Afro-Ball
Dancing, centered, and facing each other are Danae Brown, with her back facing, and Mariah Searcy; Jada Willis, left, looks on.

Elaine Page, executive director of the Grace Community Center, which organizes the event, told The Toledo Journal, “Besides being a celebration of diversity, which we have diverse groups of students, in attendance, it’s also about togetherness,” she said.

Junior High Afro-Ball
Besides dancing, kids could play various games. Patrick Huggins, left, and Lonnie Williams play a game of Jenga.

Ms. Page added by saying that the more important part about the Afro-Ball comes when Grace Community Center, as well as their partners, pairing up with the schools, the principals, the teachers, students, and parents, to help them be better prepared for the future.

“Tonight is rites of passage,” she said. “The students are here, without their parents, and they have to make the right decisions, while here, without them. The correct decision making process will help them later on throughout school, and life,” Ms. Page said.

Junior High Afro-Ball
From left are, Bryce Harbaugh, chairman of Grace Community Center Board, Jay Shavers, youth director at Grace Community Center, and three Afro-Ball attendees, Carmello Taite, Moriah Robinson, and Reona Pryor-Allen, and Elaine Page, director of Grace Community Center.

Bryce Harbaugh, chairman of Grace Community Center’s Board said, “If we can get students to think it’s cool to be responsible, and mature, then we would’ve helped make a better person.”