Susan L. Taylor spoke at Ft. Walton Beach’s Greg Chapel AME “A Red Carpet Affair”, on this past Saturday evening on the 6th floor overlooking the beach at the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort. The theme “Changing Lives, A Community in Partnership” was evident with the local and international sponsors in addition to Susan Taylor, a national celebrity. Taylor brought her message as founder of the Northwest Florida CARES Mentoring Movement (NCMM) supporting Greg Chapel’s development of a new Life Center.
Following dinner the entertainment was provided by Geoff McBride, a Santa Rosa Beach resident, who performed on “The Voice” blowing away millions of viewers and extracting immediate comments from Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green. Preceding the introduction of the guest speaker, Pastor Cecil Williams of Greg Chapel AME presented the vision for the Life Center by the purchase of the Chester Pruitt Recreation Center (Chester Pruitt was the first black policeman for the City of Ft. Walton Beach) from the City of Ft. Walton Beach. He commended the Platinum Sponsor Cox Communications, the Gold Sponsor Ver-Val Enterprises (a minority owned manufacturer), and the Silver Sponsor Loadstarr’s Incorporated, an international business.
Jerry Jones, the Executive Director of the Northwest Florida CARES Mentoring Movement introduced Susan Taylor as the founder of the national program and Editor Emeritus of Essence Magazine. Taylor presented a riveting video on the movement with actor Terrance Howard, Ophra Winfrey, Harry Belafonte, film maker Spike Lee, and many others. The message was an impassioned recruitment for the nation, but especially the African-American community, to become involved to “fight back” against the conditions of poverty, poor education, over-incarceration of Black and Hispanic males, and other negative life impacting conditions.
She commented that “the village is on fire and we are losing our children and we are the healing warriors that they need to recover to be under girded and to advance”! The NCMM has one purpose: to end the state of emergency in Black America by connecting mentors and other caring adults to the mentoring opportunities presently in the community. She made it clear that National CARES is not a mentoring organization, nor does it duplicate the efforts of other initiatives. Rather, it serves as a resource, linking caring adults to mentoring opportunities right in their communities. On a national level, NCMM consists of partner organizations such as the National Urban League, the 100 Black Men of America, the YWCA, the NAACP, major African American faith communities, fraternities, and sororities.
The plan for the Life Center includes space for the Okaloosa County Head Start which has already been completed. Phase 2 will provide offices for the NAACP Okaloosa County Branch, and Sickle Cell, along with a technology center to be used by youth and senior citizens. Phase 3 will serve as an Executive Board Room as well as a room showcasing local art work, with Phase 4 converting the gym into a multi-purpose room to be rented for social events.