By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
The room was quiet as Pastor Alexander Welch III of Abundant Life Kingdom Fellowship Ministries spoke to students in the Community Care Development Networks (CCDNs) mentoring groups about leadership.
The young people took notes and listened intently as they learned about making good choices.
“Leadership is in all of you,” Welch said. “A leader is a person who
directs, one who has authority or influence. Everybody in here is a leader. When you follow good leadership, you turn out good. Even if you fall off, just get back on.”
Welch spoke to more than a dozen students in the CCDNs Precious Pearls of Promise (PPP) and Diamonds in the Rough classes, two of the many programs offered by the CCDN, established in 2014, which operates out of the Community Connection Resource Center in East Lake.
Each month students hear from professionals on a topic and September’s featured theme was leadership.
During his session, Welch introduced his cousins Tyrone Johnson Sr. and Tyrone “TJ” Johnson Jr. Welch, who served in the U.S. Army, and Johnson Sr., who served in the U.S. Navy, are both military veterans; Johnson Jr. is currently a U.S. Navy chef.
Johnson Sr. told the young people in attendance how every choice has consequences and how bad choices can come back around. He used his upbringing and time in the military as examples.
Johnson Sr. said he was stealing cars and breaking into houses before he joined the Navy. By the age of 19, he “had an encounter with a guy and ended up doing eight years in the Virginia State Penitentiary for malicious wounding.”
“Even when I was trying to do something positive [in the military], I still did something that got me sentenced to eight years in prison,” Johnson Sr. said. “Because of that, I was discharged from the Navy.”
“One Chance to Live”
After being released from prison, Johnson Sr. returned to Birmingham and continued down the wrong path before making a change. He became a firefighter with Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service, bought a home, and became a father.
Though he was doing well, he was involved in an incident that resulted in him being stabbed six times.
“I look at first chances versus second chances,” he told the audience. “You only get one chance to go to elementary school, one chance to go to high school. You only get one chance to live.”
“I was given a second chance … third and fourth chances. I’ve had many near-death experiences, and those were chances after chances after chances. … You’re not guaranteed a second chance, so if you fail in some of your first-chance areas and get a second chance, make the best of it because when you get older, you’ll wish you could do it all over again—and do it better.”
Another speaker at this month’s leadership-focused event was T. Marie King, a community activist and member of the CCDN’s board of directors.
“Leadership is deeper than you being able to tell somebody what to do. If you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead anybody else,” she said. “Self-leadership is being able to make the proper choices to do different things. If you want to travel, if you want to go to Dubai, if you want to get out of Alabama, you have to lead yourself out of here.
“You have to make different choices, and sometimes those different choices [involve] your friends and [the people] you hang around with. … I’ve had friends for 15 years, and when they started doing dumb stuff, I had to holler at them later because the way my life is going and the things I’m trying to accomplish don’t involve dumb stuff. That’s part of being self-led.”
After hearing about leadership from the speakers—Welch, Johnson Sr., King, and local artist Wesley Holmes—Micah Harris, 14, a Diamonds in the Rough participant, said he learned some valuable lessons.
“It’s important to know who you are and where you come from because then you can’t be easily influenced by people to do the wrong thing,” he said. “Knowing who you are helps when the time comes to step up and be a leader. Everybody is not your friend, and you don’t have to do everything somebody else says. Everything you do is a choice.”
Micah, his twin sister, Miciah, 14, and his older sister Michele, 17, all attend Wenonah High School and have been involved with the CCDN’s mentoring groups for about six months.
Miciah, who is in PPP, said, “I’ve learned to not act how [young people in] my generation normally react to situations. … [I’ve learned to] think about what I’m doing before I do it.”
Michele, also in PPP, said, she appreciates the CCDN staff.
“They allow us to incorporate God into every single thing we do,” she said. “They also put into us that we have to love ourselves before anyone else does because that’s where it first starts.”
CCDN is an organization that serves families in the East Lake and Avondale areas by working with community leaders to develop and maintain local initiatives designed to support and transform families, adults, and teens.
The CCDN offers programs like PPP for young ladies and Diamonds in the Rough for young men to provide encouragement and mentoring, as well as college-prep and goal-setting activities. Both groups, targeted toward 11- to 18-year-olds, give young people opportunities to talk to leaders about problem-solving, enrichment, and life-skills planning.
For more information visit www.ccommunitycaredn.org.
Click here to read more about CCDN’s founder, Tamika Holmes.