Cedric Walker is senior pastor of Joshua's Temple Missionary Baptist Church and CEO of Joshua's Hand.
“If only time could stand still.”
As impossible as it may sound, for African Americans and others in southeast Fort Wayne, for time to stand still wasn't too much to ask; miracles still happen. After the last song was performed by the Zapp Band at the third annual Summer Community Celebration at McMillen Park on Aug. 3, I heard people saying “see you next year” and “man, this was so awesome.”
It seemed we hadn't gotten our miracle; the day had reached its end.
But for one day of the summer in each of the past three years, Generation Xers, baby boomers and some from the silent years – with our children by our sides – have been blessed to almost relive those exuberant yet lazy Sunday evenings from the '60s, '70s and '80s when African Americans of every economic, religious and social ilk and status would convene at Memorial Park for rest, recreation and relaxation, but most of all to be a part of a community you were glad to be part of.
That's what the Summer Community Celebration has been about: a chance to breathe without fear, an opportunity for a community to throw its head back, give a brotha some dap, a sista a nod and our youth some encouragement, sip on a beverage, eat some good food, dance, see some old friends, and listen to some real good music; everybody loves music!
More than 10,000 people – that's right, no exaggeration, 10,000 people from all over the city, other states and towns from near and far – gathered to celebrate the most valuable asset of our community, one another.
This celebration has grown out of what Andre Patterson and his leadership team of the Fort Wayne Commission on African American Males, along with City Councilman Glynn Hines, began several years ago – recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the activities of African American, brown and black men and fathers who do great service in our community.
These are men whose work and sacrifices to build community often go unnoticed.
They are buried beneath negative headlines, topped by bad-news stories and social media gossip that often polarizes the weakest segment of men in our community. It's no secret that well-rounded, courageous men are vital to a healthy socioeconomic environment. Though these celebrations aren't solely about African American men, they are the root of it.
I state that with all earnestness because it really bothers me that society tends to be so careful not to go too far on the subject of this segment of men, yet scream at the top of their sociopolitical lungs and platforms, “where are the black men?” When we do celebrate them, we're accused of exclusion.
The commission is hollering back. “Here we are, no guns or violence, clear heads and dealing with our issues, educated, spiritually intact, hard-working and with our families, providing scholarships, school supplies, and supporting the work of our friends and agencies in and out of our neighborhoods; we are 'Rebuilding a Community Worth Coming Home To.' We are celebrating the fact that in spite of our losses over the years, our churches are sharing the good news, our schools are educating our children, nonprofits are serving the challenged, small business and start-ups are on the rise, better homes are being built, and we are growing as a diverse community.”
So, Sweetwater, Parkview Health, Fort Wayne Parks Department, Community Foundation, Fort Wayne Metals and other partners: Thank you all for believing in southeast Fort Wayne and helping us make time stand still long enough for the rest of our city to see who we really are.