Busloads of families from across the city gathered for games, prizes, and entertainment, Aug. 9, as part of Concerned Black Men National’s fifth annual Back to School Bash. “The turnout was awesome, it seems like one of the biggest I’ve seen,” Brenda Arnold said. Arnold is a nail technician from the Bennett Career Institute, offering free manicures at the event for the past four years.
The event took place at the Thurgood Marshall Heritage Center in Northwest, D.C.
Each year, the Bash targets low-income families and participants of the organization’s divisions, including Volunteer & Mentoring, Parent & Family Services, Youth & Prevention Services, and the Saving Lives and Minds (SLAM) Afterschool Enrichment Program.
Along with the games and entertainment, the Bash featured free haircuts, health screenings, and school supplies to assist parents in reducing costs for back-to-school essentials. “It can get expensive, so we’re giving them a jump start,” said Jeanette Simon, director of volunteer services for Concerned Black Men. “We try to do a well-rounded event to really expose them to the services they need.”
Parents received pamper packages during the event, and at least 200 backpacks were handed out to children. Treyon Moore, 11, received a signature backpack from the organization stocked with earphones, books, a ruler, a football, pens, erasers, and a travel kit – items he had yet to secure for his upcoming school year as a sixth grader at Glassmanor Elementary School in Oxon Hill, Md.
Moore came to the event with his mentor, Markell Smallwood. “It feels good hanging out with someone younger than me,” Smallwood said.
The bash’s entertainment highlights included a guest performance by Grammy-nominated progressive hip-hop artist, Christylez Bacon, who hails from the District. Sponsors included Industrial Bank, Jamba Juice, Harris Teeter, Costco, and the District of Columbia Fire and EMS, among other local businesses.
Since its conception in 1975, the organization has grown from five concerned Philadelphia police officers, determined to help kids who were at risk of gang violence, to a national office with nine satellite offices and 33 member chapters across the nation that offer mentoring, after school programming, summer camps, workforce development and parenting classes. “We call it a second chance program,” said Wayne Salter, fatherhood initiative director. “We help men find employment, reengage with their children and become valuable members of the community.”