By: Crystal LaShan
For ten years, the Houston Morehouse Alumni Association (HMAA) has produced first-class celebrations of Black Fatherhood. Young black boys need to see successful Black Male Role Models. Living in a country that often expects young Black Men to be troublemakers, low achievers, or rebellious, it is our responsibility as African Americans to provide examples of Black Fatherhood Excellence. Our young Black men need to know that there are alternatives to what society believes most young Black men are.
In 2012, Morehouse Houston Alumni Association President Malaki Sims started the tradition of a Father’s Day Brunch, which is also a tradition in the Morehouse Atlanta Alumni Association. The Father’s Day Brunch’s purpose is to strengthen fatherhood’s bonds and showcase outstanding African American fathers within the Houston area. During this year’s Father’s Day Brunch, the HMAA presented awards to distinguished men of color for leadership, mentorship, and service. They also recognized distinguished alumnus Ray Shackelford (class of 2008) and Maroon Tiger “Father of the Year” Mr. Gejuan Cole (class of 2001). Every award was created to acknowledge community leaders, fellow Morehouse men, and everyday fathers who commit to being active, present, and involved in their children’s lives.
It is fitting for Morehouse men to lead this effort since they are blessed to be graduates of the only institution designed to educate men of African Descent to be exceptional leaders in their community, country, and the world. The brunch was hosted by Master of Ceremonies, Jonathan Martin, and Fox 26 Anchor. Dr. Timothy W. Sloan (class of 94) delivered the Invocation. The Father’s Day Brunch keynote speaker was Bishop James Dixon of Community Faith Church. He is highly respected in the Houston community and in the nation as a man of vision whose leadership gifts and skills have proven to be beneficial to scores of religious, civic, and business organizations. His address was an inspiring call for African American men to fill in the balance for those who don’t have father figures and for us to celebrate the strong Black men who do the job very well.
The Dezra White, MD Leadership Award was named after one of the founding members of HMAA. Dr. White was committed to supporting the organization through leadership, financial support, and his time. Thomas Jones Jr. received the Dezra White, MD Leadership Award. He is a founding and recently retired partner of McConnell & Jones, a public accounting firm recognized by Accounting Today as one of the largest CPA practices in the Southwestern United States.
Sterling and Stephen Carter were awarded the Alvin Wardlaw Mentorship Award. Alvin Wardlaw was an exceptional Morehouse man committed to the growth and success of HMAA. Dr. Sterling Carter has practiced as a physical therapist for over 20 years. A graduate of Langston University, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biology (1993) and Physical Therapy (1997). He received his Master of Science in Physical Therapy, with a focus in Orthopedics from Texas Women’s University (2007) and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Simmons College (2013). He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and an esteemed Fort Bend Leadership Forum graduate.
Stephen Carter has served as the Director of Finance for a large IT Consulting Firm, Sr. Managing Consultant at KPMG LLP, and Sr. Accounting Manager at Pride/ Ensco. He is currently Sr. Project Controls Manager at Gulf Interstate Engineering. Stephen has over 21 years of finance and management experience and continues to be heavily involved in his community, church, and family life.
This dynamic brother duo is both active members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and members of 100 Black men of Houston, Inc, where they mentor young men from the ages of 7 – 17 years old monthly. They also launched their first book under Forbes Books in Fall 2018, titled “Double Your Success,” which made it to the Amazon Best Sellers List.
The Distinguished Alumnus Award winner was Ray B. Shackelford (class of 2008). He is passionate about creating equity for the Black community and ensuring that future generations are better positioned to succeed. In August 2019, he launched a social impact and public engagement firm called Ozark St. Consulting, which successfully executed campaigns for the Census and “Get Out the Vote” at the city, state, and national levels in 2020.
The Albert Price Sr., Community Service Award, was presented to Jarren Small. He is the Co-Founder of Legends Do Live and Educational Entertainment. Jarren is a Millennial Mogul from Missouri City, Texas. He is a 2012 graduate of Prairie View A&M University, earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications with a minor in Marketing. While a student at Hightower High School, he was accepted to the Broadcast Media Academy, which led to opportunities with many leading media companies such as BET, NBA, and Comcast Sports. Mr. Small believes in striving for greatness and paying it forward.
One of the most touching moments of the brunch was when Alexandria Cole, along with Don Taylor (class of 2008) presented her father, GeJuan Cole (class of 2001) with the Maroon Tiger “Father of the Year” Award. She delivered a very emotional and touching speech that she wrote in honor of her father. Every year HMAA has a Maroon Tiger Father’s Day Essay Contest where 9th – 12th-grade students are allowed to submit an essay about their father. The winner receives $500 and two complimentary tickets to the brunch where they read their essay, and their father is presented with the Maroon Tiger Father of the Year Award.
GeJuan Cole is an Engineering Dual Degree graduate of Morehouse College in Mathematics and Georgia Institute of Technology in Mechanical Engineering. He later earned his MBA in Global Leadership from the University of Houston and is a licensed Professional Engineer certified by the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. Mr. Cole is the Director of Tactical Projects for the Transmission-Gulf of Mexico operating area. In this role, he leads the engineering and project management efforts to ensure the safe and compliant operation of Williams’ natural gas pipeline infrastructure. Congratulations, Mr. Cole, on being an extraordinary example of Black Fatherhood Excellence.
My favorite part of the brunch was when presenting chair, Dr. Matthew W. Plummer, Jr., D.D.S. (class of 1965) delivered his amazing original poem – “A Message to Morehouse Men.” It was full of vivid imagery, heart-wrenching truth, and admiration for the struggle of Black men to survive and thrive in America throughout their lives. It was a refreshing display of passion and love for the Black male Experience in America. Dr. Plummer has consistently contributed to the HMAA Father’s Day Brunch contributing $5,000 to $10,000 yearly for scholarships for students in STEM Fields.
Congratulations to the HMAA Scholarship recipients who were presented with $2,000 scholarships each. The scholarship award winners were Berthew Jennings, John George, John Kendrick Williams, Kenneth Ugo, Matthew Thompson, and Stephen Brown. We are excited to see how these young Men of Morehouse will develop into remarkable Morehouse Men in the next four years of their college education at Morehouse.
The HMAA Father’s Day Brunch was a great success thanks to the hard work of the Brunch Chairman Et’Chane Towers (class of 1999), HMAA President Derek Garrett (class of 2003), and the entire HMAA brotherhood who work tirelessly to make this event a great success every year. A special thank you to the HMAA Sponsors and Community Partners Comcast, The Luke Church, Etch and Market, Kevin Riles Commercial, Albemarle Foundation, and Vernonville Asset Management for supporting this worthy cause and investing in the promotion of celebrating Black Fatherhood Excellence.