Rally planned to help empower men, strengthen community

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By Alice Du Pont

The aim of the 1000 Man Rally is to get 1,000 or more men in Gadsden County to come together to learn how to empower themselves and help the community. The inaugural rally was held in Leon County last year and was the brain child of Rev. Greg James, senior pastor at Reclaiming the Land Ministries Inc.

"There is a need to empower our men. They need to know who they are and they need to know through empowerment they can help themselves and their families and their community. We're spreading the word in Gadsden County this year because there are needs that are not being met just as there are needs nationwide that are also not being met," James said.

James said he has talked to the mayors in each municipality and they also see the importance of lifting up men in the community. He said while talking to mayors and explaining the rally and its purpose he learned this type of event is something many of them have wanted to do for a long time.

“Havana's mayor was on board immediately when I explained that our intent is to help men rise above their situations if it includes joblessness, lack of education or any other social problems where there is help for them to access. For others who are leading productive lives, we are asking them to commit to mentoring a child. All we're asking them for is 10 hours over the 9-month school year. If they can just go to the schools to show that there are men out there who care about our children and where their lives will lead them," he said.

The rally will be held Aug. 14 and 15. On the 14th at 7:30 p.m. on the Courthouse Square, there will be music, speakers and poetry. James said Friday night program organizers are looking for young men who have talent and would like to share their gifts with the audience.

On Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. the "Boyz II Men" breakfast will be held at the National Guard Armory. The speaker will be motivational speaker  Rev. Billy Neal Moore who spent 16 years and 6 months on Death Row. Moore's life was spared just 7 hours before he was to be put to death.

James said Moore talks about how he feels his execution was halted so that he could promote life.

"This man's story is riveting. His book 'I Shall Not Die' describes in detail his experiences in prison. He is currently a minister with the Christ Assembly of Evangelistic Ministries and appears regularly on the 700 Club," James said.

James, who spent 13 years in prison, said this rally is important to him because he wants to see all men live up to the mission that God has ordained. This rally, he said, is a call for men to speak, not just with words but actions, and become the galvanizing force for restoration of homes, communities, states and the nation. The theme is "Men: Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace."

"We must become the voice of children in jail, those who have dropped out of school, who are sleeping in substandard housing, who are joining gangs and those whose vocabulary has become a foreign language to us because their teacher is now hip-hop," James said.

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, is the honorary chairman of the rally.

"We recognize the challenges we all face and the need to reconcile our differences and celebrate the rich legacy and diversity of our communities. We acknowledge this 1000 Man Rally as an evening of mobilization, empowerment and networking. Because of the challenges we face, with increasing drop-out rates, gang violence, intergenerational incarceration, unemployment, lack  of health care coverage and the need for more economic development, this rally is an even more desperate call for men to become more visible and more vocal in our communities," Williams wrote.

Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young, county commission chairperson Eugene Lamb and Derrick Elias, Quincy's mayor pro-tem, share co-chairmen responsibilities. They agree the rally will be good for the county.

"I see far too many young men in and out of trouble and in and out of jail. If this rally is going to help address that issue whether through education or motivation, I will do everything I can to help make it a success," Young said.

Elias said an event such as this rally is needed to address some of the problems faced by men of all races and creeds.

"I think this is good for all men. Anytime you can do something to help someone, it helps us all. If the men who attend, and I'm encouraging everyone I know, (can) get just one thing out of it that helps them in their lives, it will be worth it," Lamb said.

For more information on the rally, call 850-210-8837 or log on at www.1000manrally.com.