By Madeline Marcelia Garvin
Special to Frost Illustrated
Dr. Michelle Collins-Austin, M.D., President of the African-American Healthcare Alliance took to the stage at the Grand Wayne Saturday, the October 19th to introduce the evening’s MC’s: Dr. Alisha Harris, M.D. and Dr. Bryan Meriwether, Pharm D, who welcomed everyone to the African-American Healthcare Alliance’s 17th Annual Scholarship Ball. And it was only fitting that these two young doctors served in this capacity, because both are Fort Wayne natives: graduating from Fort Wayne
Concordia and Bishop Luers High Schools respectively, before matriculating at their various universities; Harris from Purdue University and IU-Med School in Indianapolis, where she received her medical degree in obstetrics and gynecology; and Meriwether received from Butler where he received his undergraduate and pharmaceutical degrees and is now the manager of the pharmacy department at the Cook and Lima Road Walgreens. Putting a somewhat light-hearted spin on their MC duties, the two young doctors enumerated the top ten reasons to return to Fort Wayne “David Lettermen” style after one received their advanced degrees; a few choice reasons that produced some hilarity were:
If you don’t cook and get tired of PBJ, you can eat at your mother’s house.
If you have separation anxiety from your mother.
You can get anywhere in the city within 15 minutes.
You can vacate at Coney Island anytime.
Next to take the stage was Dr. D’Andre Douse who shared that he was very excited to see two former AAHA scholarship recipients return to Fort Wayne. Douse then quoted former Atty. General Collin Powell as follows: “There are no secrets to success, which includes preparation, hard work and a willingness to accept failure.” Aside from this, Douse said, “Don’t let anyone define you. Be a dreamer; be a doer.” Your support of our Scholarship Ball allows us to present scholarships to deserving young people; thus, we welcome you to the 17th Annual Ball, which, according to Dr. Douse, is filled with entertainment, celebration and education.
Pastor Bill McGill of the Imani Baptist Temple, in his usual poetic fashion, then thanked the Lord God Almighty for allowing us to support the African-American Health Care Alliance, while asking God to anoint the keynote speaker’s poetic voice. After McGill’s invocation, a delectable dinner of baked free range chicken wrapped in proschetta, served with new potatoes and seasoned French style green beans; all of which were topped off with decadent desserts of cheese cake and coffee and tea. Along with this succulent meal, while dining attendees were treated to the smooth, sultry renditions of such songs as “Sweet Thing,” “Livin’ My Life like its Golden,” and “Love Will Be Right Here” by Fort Wayne’s own Fatima Washington.
Approaching the podium next was none other than Sixth District City Councilman Glynn Hines, who not only read the Mayor’s Proclamation in the Mayor’s absence; but, he also brought a little humor when he shared that he and McGill who were seated together both inquired, “Where’s the hot sauce?” Hines went on to say he was proud to announce his daughter Candace, who was also one of the Alliance’s scholarship recipients, has received her doctorate in optometry and currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
And, following the perfunctory pleasantries, Kenneth Jones, MHA, succinctly introduced the Keynoter, Sekou Andrews, a two time recipient of the National Poetic Championship and one of the world’s leading inspirational voices.
Sekou commenced by saying he was a little nervous because he thought he was the one invited to do poetry, but Pastor McGill decided to come after his job. However, Sekou continued by stating he needed the voices of those in the audience, and he wanted them to drop all of their pretenses and titles since this was the Alliance’s 17th Anniversary Ball to sing “Happy Birthday.” But, after the first few notes, he stopped everyone and said that the problem did not lie in singing in unison, but singing in harmony, for there was some discord. Afterwards Sekou emphasized it is in what we give that our harmony is born, for you don’t show up with truly empty hands. “What,” posited Sekou, “are you leaving behind? This is what’s driving your passion. We’re a culture who’s learned to do more; this is who you are. You vowed to be extra – giving the extra push for quality.” And, continued Sekou, “We must give ourselves a purpose beyond ourselves. We cannot do this without the help of someone else.”
With this, Sekou shared a Jamaican folktale in which an elderly farmer was unable to plant his sweet yams because the land was frozen and to make matters worse his young son, Vincent, couldn’t assist with the aforementioned endeavor because he was incarcerated for a minor infraction. (This, of course, brought several “ah’s). However, Vincent while in conversation on the jail’s phone with his father, told his dad that whatever you do, do not dig up the fields because that is where I buried the bodies. Hearing that which was said, prison guards arrived at the fields that night and dug up the land and to their dismay found nothing. But, the son the next day asked his father if he liked having his fields readied for planting. Though the son was incarcerated, he made use of the best resources he had available.
At this point, Sekou reminded everyone that the greatest resource you have is each other because you chose tonight to celebrate the organization that brings together the best of what you do, and the most powerful identity lies in your synergy.
“Your open hand is to help teach someone else; true harmony is about what it means to have a symphony of voices celebrating; it looks like this room whose culture shares the same values gathered around this table; it looks like the once at risk college graduate getting ready for graduation.”
In conclusion, Sekou said, “Harmony looks like Brian and Alisha standing on this stage saying, look community, look what you did! You produce students who put the harmony in practice; you produce sustainable students – proving they can kick open doors and this is why you collaborate with each other. So, African-American Healthcare Alliance, it is time to get your harmony on; no matter how dissident when the song begins, we will find the harmony. There will always be a harmony that you and I can achieve together as long as we each sing together.”
The presentation of the 2013 scholarships by Dorothy Jackson, MS, RN and Wayne Walker, D.D.S., the evening’s primary purpose was next. Presenters stated this year out of 30 applicants, the committee selected nine, and he would like to have the nine students or the student’s representative come forward.
This year’s 2013 scholarship recipients included:
Brittany N. Beasley – Doctorate of Physical Therapy student-University of Indianapolis
Leonetti M. Chapman – B.S. in nursing student at Purdue University (IPFW)
Tonisha M. King – B.S. in nursing student at St. Francis University, Fort Wayne
Jennifer N. Lapsley – A.S. in nursing student at St. Francis University, Fort Wayne
Charita L. Roque – 3rd year medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine; also working toward an MPH in Global Health, Cleveland, OH
Ronnye C. Rutledge – 1st year medical student at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
Anthony D. Turner – 2nd year medical student at University of Buffalo School of Medicine, Buffalo, NY
Brielle S. Wattley – B.S. in nursing student at University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO
Zuri A. Williams – Doctorate of Physical Therapy student at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
After the recipients and representatives expressed appreciation for their awards, Justin McGee, a 4th year medical student at The Ohio State University, substituted for his father, Dr. Alan Wayne McGee, who, according to his son was experiencing a bit of stage fright. Justin then shared that he has been involved with the Alliance in some capacity since the age of eight, and the best thing about this is the community, and it is a great thing to be a part of presenting the McGee Scholarship, in honor of his grandfather and aunt.“ This year’s McGee Scholarship,” said Justin, “Is presented to a graduate of Canterbury High School and Harvard University; who is currently attending Yale’s Medical School – Ronnye C. Rutledge, who plans to return to Fort Wayne to establish her practice.”
In closing this segment of the program, Dr. Wayne Walker, D.D.S. stated, “We appreciate your support, and we truly hope to see you next year.”
Last, but not least, came Dr. Alan Wayne McGee, M.D. and Shalon Johnson-Taylor, BSN, RN, who together recognized the following 2013 corporate sponsors:
Media Sponsors – Frost Illustrated and Indiana’s News Center
Platinum Plus Sponsor – Parkview Health who underwrote Sekou
Platinum Sponsors – Brooks Medical, Inc.; Grant Medical Alliance, LLC
Gold Sponsor – Integrity Medical/Biomet Spine
Silver Sponsors – Mark Bergdall/Integra Foundation; Lutheran Health network
Bronze Sponsors – Barrett & McNagny, LLP; Fort Wayne Medical Society; Barrett & McNagny, LLP; Fort Wayne Medical Society; Relativity Football, LLC; University of Saint Francis
Table Sponsor – Heidi Tanner/Lifespine
Flower Sponsor – Ortho Northeast (ONE)
Wrapping up the evening’s festive occasion was the African-American Healthcare Alliance President, Dr. Michelle Collins-Austin, M.D., who made closing remarks and invited all African-American Healthcare providers to come forward for photos. She then applauded Sekou for his amazing presentation and announced that for those who wished to get on the dance floor, dance music was being provided by Kenneth Reese. (While exiting, I noticed, those without corns, were on the floor stepping to the music, as the Great Bard would say.)
Finally, you ask, “What is an alliance?” An alliance, according to Wikipedia, “is a pact, coalition, or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests.” This is exactly that which was in operation at the AAHA Ball. Yes, working in a harmonious capacity, the African-American Healthcare Alliance lifts as it climbs and increases its numbers, providing healthcare, education and scholarships to strengthen the community. Aside from this, for those in attendance Saturday evening, it became quite evident that the culinary, musical and oratorical Muses were in full swing.