In a grassroots campaign to help empower local black men, a group of community leaders has stepped up to host a series of empowerment marches all across South Dade, led by such prominent figures as Pastor Robert J. Brooks, Deacon Eugene Williams, and President of the Greater Goulds Optimist Club Joe Demps, among many others.
However, these are not your typical protest marches. Calling themselves “South Dade Men of Integrity,” this group instead has elected to walk in silence through neighborhoods – and speak up only when they come across a fellow black male looking to better himself and his community through healthy living, voting, and sustained employment.
The Silent March for Men most recently convened in Goulds, on June 16. Previous marches have taken place in West Perrine and in the Homestead-Florida City area, where the group partnered with community-based organizations such as Rise Up 4 Change, the Greater Miami Optimist Club, and Community Health of South Florida (CHI), which provided a mobile medical van and a dental unit. In addition, South Florida Workforce has been on hand to open up employment opportunities.
Immediately following each Silent March, organizers have also been hosting free home-cooked barbecues to show gratitude to the army of volunteers and attendees of the events.
“Initially, we just wanted men in our communities to ‘know their numbers’,” said Pastor Brooks, of St. Peter’s Missionary Baptist Church of West Perrine. By that, he means by raising awareness of key health indicators such as blood pressure, sugar levels, other men’s issues.
“Now we’re not only connecting men with medical and dental services, but with possible jobs in the community,” he continued. “We’re also encouraging them to register to vote so that we all have better representation in local government.”
Brooks also serves as president of the West Perrine Christian Association, the 501c3 organization through which South Dade Men of Integrity operates.
The group’s unique mission of helping to improve the community by touching one life at a time is as strong as ever – and growing. Dozens of men and children rallied June 16 along on the running track at Gould Park in southwest Miami-Dade County brandishing matching black shirts and pamphlets. After entering the adjoining neighborhoods, marchers split up to cover the most ground in order to make the biggest impact possible in the community.
According to Deacon Williams, of the Second Baptist Church of Richmond Heights, this movement is more about being a hand up than a hand out. “For the brothers, we come together to really see about whatever needs to be done in the community, because fathers sometimes don’t take enough of an interest.”
Joe Turner, former pastor of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in West Perrine, similarly stated, “One of the indictments against men in our communities is that we’re absent, extinct, or uninvolved. Of course this is not always the case. But these all-men marches do provide a vital opportunity to bring all men together, so that we can show love for our communities, show presence in our communities – and then begin to move from presence to policy.”
After this most recent Silent March, many of the people the group met along the streets came back to the park to tap resources, talk further with organizers about next steps – and to grab a bite of great food served up by the women volunteers from MorningStar Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Rev. T.T. Shellman, Sr. Pastor.
Going on for many months now, this new movement was conceived at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church where several of pastors and Deacon Eugene Williams came together in January 2018 to plan a special service. Over 300 men attended the service here at the oldest missionary Baptist church in West Perrine and were surprised when the leadership suggested they start walking around the community, to clean up a street or two.
“And they say prayer changes things, but prayer changes people. People change things. That’s what we need to start,” said Williams.
Other leading members of the Men of Integrity movement include Vice President of West Perrine Christian Association,Theo Johnson; Mark Coats of Grace of God Baptist Church of Goulds; resident Darren Handy; and former Miami-Dade County Police Officer Arthur Wellons.
Going forward, the group will continue to reach out to faith leaders in historically black communities and further engage with other ethnicities beyond African Americans, including the Haitian community.
“Frankly, whatever your ethnicity – if you’re male, and you love your community, and if you want to make or see change and be a better man than you were yesterday – this is the place for you to be,” said Pastor Brooks.
“We’re inviting everyone from every walk of life, every creed, color, and distinction.”
Contact Men of Integrity, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Pastor Brooks at 305-232-5512.