Frost Illustrated Staff Report
FORT WAYNE—Poet Audre Lorde is quoted as saying:
“Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”
That said, it shouldn’t seem strange that the keynote speaker for the 17th Annual African-American Healthcare Alliance (AAHA) Scholarship Ball, scheduled for 6 p.m., Oct. 19 at the Grand Wayne Convention Center in downtown Fort Wayne, is renowned poet and motivational speaker Sekou Andrews.
According AAHA member Gene Butler, the annual ball is the group’s primary means to raise scholarship funds for young African Americans enrolled in various healthcare programs—medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, physical therapy and other related healthcare practitioner fields.
Butler, a pharmacist and owner of Community Care Pharmacy—which is celebrating its 20th year in business—said providing that financial support to young people is extremely important for developing the talent that the city has. Although he declined to name specific amounts, he said the scholarships were “significant”—much more than “book money.”
“Why do we give money for kids to go to school? Education is not just a word. It’s something that needs to be instilled in our children,” explained Butler. “This is something we must have, because not to have it can be a very sad and lifelong problem.
“Education is about your well-being in life,” he said.
While everyone might not be on a traditional college track, he said everyone needs to pursue some type of training beyond high school, whether it be a trade school, an undergraduate or advanced college degree or other technical training.
“High school, that’s just the beginning,” said Butler.
He said the entire community can play a part in advancing that value and making it a core part of young people’s lives. The AAHA’S scholarship program is designed to set that example before others, said Butler.
The alliance, however, does more than just hand out money. Members provide mentoring to students and share with them the AAHA’s philosophy of giving back to the community, in hopes that they too will return and help improve it.
“We want to support people by helping them become educated so they can bring that education back to the community.”
Butler said poet Sekou Andrews is the kind of speaker who can deliver that message to an audience in a fun but pointed manner. In the past, the organization primarily featured keynote speakers who in someway were associated with the medical field. This year, they wanted something different, said Butler.
“We wanted to change the night from just speaking at people to allow them to be entertained and educated,” he said.
In addition to networking with people, enjoying fine dining and applauding this year’s scholarship winners, Butler said the audience is in for a real treat with the keynote presentation.
“Sekou is thought provoking. He started out as a teacher,” said Butler, explaining that the poet uses his own life experiences and what he has seen in the education field to help teach others how important learning is. “He’s a very profound thinker when speaking on education and the need to make it a ‘non-negotiable priority’ in our children’s lives.”
According to excerpts from a bio published on his website, sekouandrews.com:
“Sekou won the national poetry slam championship twice, featured in two national spoken word tours—including Declare Yourself, the voting initiative founded by TV/film legend Norman Lear that registered over one million new voters—and saw the acclaim from his two spoken word CDs make the most awarded artist in Just Plain Folks, the nations largest independent music organization.
“With two being the magic number for this rising artist, Sekou teamed up with creative partner Steve Connell and … performed at private events for Barack Obama (by special request of Oprah Winfrey) and Hillary Clinton (by special request of Quincy Jones), and inspired sold out crowds at countless other high profile events, including the Pasadena Pops Orchestra summer series, the Marian Anderson Awards and the 2009 Inaugural Peace Ball.
“Now in love with spoken word and insistent that it deserved a larger platform, Sekou set out on a journey to show the world the commercially-viable power of poetry that led him to create an entirely new, cutting edge-form of motivational speaking called Poetic Voice. Through his unique blend of inspirational speaking, strategic storytelling, poetry, theater and comedy, Sekou helps individuals and organizations tell their most powerful stories, and shows them the best version of themselves so that they can live into it.”
Butler said Andrews has presented for major corporations such as IBM and even the area’s Parkview Health.
“He’s probably one of the best kept secrets in the world,” said Butler.
He invites the public to get in on the secret by attending the 17th Annual African-American Healthcare Alliance Scholarship Ball on Oct. 19.
Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at Community Care Pharmacy, 2700 S. Lafayette St. For more information, call (260) 458-9800.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 16 print edition.