“A Time to Speak Up and Speak Out” was the theme for a forum on African American Leadership in the 21st Century at the Church of the Overcomer in Trainer, Pa. The Community and Leadership Institute sponsored the event. The moderator was Rev. Keith Collins, pastor of the Church of the Overcomer.
“It’s not about individual accomplishments; it’s about coming together to bring about change in the community,” Collins said. “We need to restore our families, because in order for us to get different results in the streets, we have to address issues within the family. … Other people can help with this cause, but it’s really up to us to lay the groundwork and follow through with it.”
The forum included a panel of pastors, community activists and authors. Some of the speakers included assistant district attorney in Delaware County, Erica Parham; author, Damon Youmans; minister, Keith Muhammad; founder of Brothers of Concern, Kenneth Covert; co-pastor of True Vine Missionary Full Gospel Church Rev. Jay T. Harrison and founder of Chester Mission and mentor of the Chester Boys and Girls Club, Darren Laws.
Topics for the event included education, revitalization and going green in Delaware County, future collaborations between local organizations and jobs.
“When it comes to looking for a job, many people aren’t prepared when they have an interview,” Parham said. “It’s really the small things that makes a difference in an interview — like being on time, following directions, dressing properly and selling yourself to the employer. A lot of young people don’t know about this, because they aren’t being taught. There are jobs out there, but we have to step up and make sure that our youth are ready.
“We need to teach them that good jobs come with hard work. A lot of our youth want a job at the top, but in reality you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. The best stories are [of] those who overcome hardships and struggles in order to obtain success.”
Isam Keith Smith, executive vice president of the mission and motivational speaker, talked to the audience about his personal struggle to find success after being incarcerated for 37 years. Smith was serving a life sentence when Governor Ed Rendell issued him a pardon. “There are numerous programs out there that will help ex-offenders get a job, you just have to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to you,” he said. “It may not be the job that you want, but through volunteering, patience and hard work you will eventually get rewarded. I spent the majority of my life in prison, but I made the best out of my situation. I got my GED and learned nine different trades.
“Being incarcerated was a major turning point in my life. I now have an opportunity to help my younger brothers and sisters make the kind of choices that will lead them to greater educational opportunities and become productive members of society. I’m doing everything that I can to reach out to the youth, because I refuse to let them follow in my footsteps.”