By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY – Michele Griffin‘s message was simple, yet emotional and connective for youth and their families in an age where the self-esteem of youth are challenged in the bullying and violent environment – First Love Yourself.
That acronym formed the name of the organization she formed with Dinita Bailey, FLY Inc. The group attracted more than 200 people at their first event last Wednesday (Aug. 28) at the All Wars Memorial Building, the former Soldier’s Home.
“Our mission is to create a healthy and mentally stabled well-being for children, while enhancing self-confidence, lowering the bullying rates in neighborhoods and school, while reducing traumatic experiences in youth,” Griffin told Front Runner New Jersey this week.
“Our plan in the future is to service school-aged children in an after-school self-esteem, anti-bullying, and post-traumatic experience program. Due to the most recent level of crime involving our youth, and a new school year approaching the seminar provided local resources for parents to utilize when in need of support,” she continued.
The inaugural free Self-Esteem, Anti-Bullying, and Senseless Violence Seminar in Atlantic City youth drew the attention of numerous professional in the area. Mayor Frank Gilliam provided dinner. Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner, one of the few African-American prosecutors in the state and country, greeted some of those attending and spoke to the co-founders.
Safe Space for Youth, Parents
But more importantly, the seminar gave a safe place for youth and their parents to talk about their challenges in the community. During the seminar, Griffin said she approached different youth in the audience and asked them to identify three things that they love about themselves.
“I think they need to work on from within,” Griffin said. “Also during this section, guest speaker Aliyah Marshall and Gloria Toulson, both from Atlantic City, reflected on how self-esteem affects our local children and adults.
“Gloria went a little deeper about how she grew up with no motivators only parents who constantly scream at children telling them to sit down and shut up. Gloria plans to start a youth program called Voices where youth will be able you utilize their voices to express feelings,” Griffin said.
Children, Adults Recognized
Organizers gave gifts to several five sets of twins from Atlantic City attending the seminar, along with former Atlantic City H.S. basketball player Nayona Tolbert, who will be attending Rowan University. Tyonnah White was recognized with a Motivation gift due to the reunification of her and her children. Two local fathers were giving a gift for raising their children, Carlos Mendez and Kashawn McKinley.
Griffin and Bailey talked about local youth violence and how burying young people his year has affected not only the victims’ families but the suspects and the peers of these youth.
Meika Wilkins told the audience how the murder of her children’s father Marcus Hunt left her two daughters without a dad and fears that they made need help because they have not been allowed enough time to grieve.
One youth, Machiah Tennant, wrote a poem/speech about how she feels and what’s different since her father was killed in Atlantic City. Ty Russell was killed in front of New Hope Baptist Church years ago and his killer is still at-large.
Griffin said Samirah, an 11 year old from the Back Maryland Section, sang “The Greatest Love of All,” a song made popular by Whitney Houston and George Benson, receiving a standing ovation.
Heartbreak of Losing Family to Senseless Violence
Mona Tally talked about her family has gone through with senseless violence in Atlantic City the past several years. She is the sister of Costello Tally and Demond Tally and aunt of Demond Tally Jr and Toochie Tally, who all were killed in the past years.
“She spoke about how her family has been through this senseless violence numerous times and how her hurt or feelings about A.C. will never be the same especially after receiving the last phone call from her little brother Coach Demond Tally who was killed in front of his home that he lived in, next door to Second Ward Councilman Marty Small also Demond’s best friend,” Griffin said. “She was emotional and spoke about how everyone in A.C. even people in the room knows who killed Demond and yet no justice has been served.”
Former Basketball Star Michael Griffin Speaks
Griffin’s brother, former Atlantic City H.S. All-American basketball player Michael Griffin spoke about bullying. Griffin, who graduated in 1993, finished his college career at the University of Hartford where he is listed in the record books for assists and steals.
Indra Abdullah, co-founder and operator of Princess Inc. a local mentoring program for youth in Atlantic City, also spoke.
Groups and individuals providing gifts include Cape Atlantic Ink (Glorist Moore and Pamela Washington Palmer), Interventional Intentions (Talia Stephens), Caring Connections (Teonoa Bettis), Noonie Tunes Childcare ( Sakiyah Quick), Stepping Stones to Excellence (Iteen Dozier), FREE Dads Club (Lawrence, Brian, and Ibn), Peace Amongst Youth (Kellie Cors) and Princess Inc (Autumn Bennet and Indra Abdullah).
Sponsors Make A Difference
Major sponsors for the event included Darcy Johnson Day Law Firm, Neil Law Firm, City Wide Towing, Second Ward Councilman Marty Small, and the Atlantic City Police Foundation.
Some 20 bicycles with helmets for little youth and locks for teens were giving out along with new clothes, sneakers, tablets, Karaoke machines, scooters, skateboards, jewelry and other gifts.
“Hawkins, Harrison, Hicks, and Washington children won bikes. Family raffles we’re giving out. April Bell of EHC and family won a Desktop Computer, Ramone Toulson of A.C. and family won a desktop computer,” Griffin said. “Megan Frederick and Shanice Selby of A.C. and family won 40-inch televisions and other families won Baskets filled with cleaning supplies and health and Beauty Baskets. Volunteers also won gifts: Destiny Deberry from the Atlantic City High School Cheer Squad, winning jewelry and baskets.”
Next FLY Inc. Events
Griffin said on Sept. 14, FLY Inc. will collaborate with Stepping Stones of Excellence at Swag Your Bag, a free community event. On Sept. 20, the organization will have a sub sale with all proceeds going to future events
On Sept. 28, the group will host a “Mothers Motivating Mothers” fundraiser, that will include raffles, and dinner.
“Mothers can register to come give advice, receive advice, hopefully bridge the gap in mothers from community a night full of fun with games etc.,” Griffin said.
All Photos courtesy of DougieStyle Photography
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