Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Abu Bangura Honors Brookhaven

This past Saturday at 2:00pm, an event I helped organize to honor Abu Bangura (right, chatting with CKHS band members) did not turn out as I planned.

It wasn't the rain at the event or the fact that the previous day's flooding meant Cross Keys' community had a sudden conflict. The football team had their game moved to Saturday at 2:00pm in Decatur HS' stadium due to flooding at their opponent's (Lovett) field. No, though both of these items lowered the turn out, it was not the attendees that surprised me - it was the honoree.

Cross Keys' teachers and coaches had described Abu to me all summer in very positive light. Each time someone spoke of him, they did so with affection. After meeting him, I can understand their universal admiration for this young man. His accomplishments on the soccer field, the classroom, and in the chorus room continue at Piedmont College as they did at Cross Keys HS. His former coaches, classroom teachers, and chorus teacher (pictured above/left with Abu) attended the event to support their former student.

What took me by surprise was his eloquence. After Commissioner Rader, Principal McMillan, Coach Wallace, and I all had our turn at addressing the crowd, Abu spoke. His sincerity and eloquence made us sound like mumblers - he told the young people how honored he was and how they could accomplish anything they wanted to with hard work. He was there for them, not for himself.

He told them how much he cherished his time at Cross Keys and how, after his current season was over at Piedmont, he'd be back to help the younger players at CKHS. In short, he exhibited a humility and good will that was a credit to him, his family, his faith, his high school and his community. Abu truly honored Brookhaven by his visit over the weekend and I can't wait to see him working with the young people at CKHS this winter.

Band Director, Bernard Short (picture below/right, with Dr. McMillan and Abu Bangura), brought out his young people to the event to make a joyful noise on Peachtree Road and did not disappoint. Small in numbers and sporting the better part of a uniform appearance, these kids really rocked the place! They played with precision and discipline. Folks across Peachtree at Hudson Grille turned from their NCAA games and listened and cheered the CKHS band. Little kids bobbed heads to the drum beat.

This is Mr. Bernard's second year and he is making great strides towards reviving what was a dying program. With nearly as many instruments in need of repair as those in working condition, this small band reminded me of our Continental Army - not fully equipped but performing at a high level. Very, very impressive group ...

Look for coverage in the Brookhaven Reporter and via PDS-24 or Kaleidoscope. PDS-24 interviewed Abu and I hope they share some of this video with our community. I'll posted back here via comments when I see any coverage so you can enjoy it! Drop by the Peachtree/Dresden Waffle House and sit in the "Abu" booth ... he said he's going to bring friends down for breakfast and sit in front of the framed jersey to see if they notice it. He is a rascal!


Dunwoody Mom said...

Wow, what an inspiring post Kim!! IMO, these are the types of success stories DCSS should be telling and touting.

Cerebration said...

Way to go, Kim! Classic case of what always happens when you think you're doing something for someone else -- they always give you back so much more in return!

Anonymous said...

More stories of success please!!!!

A great story and a true role model.

One Fed Up Insider said...

It was great to be there Saturday and see all the hard work. Kim you really are a true inspiration to all.

Ella Smith said...

Extremely nice.

I intended to come but my son had a soccer game at 2:15.

Kim Gokce said...

FYI - A very welcome mention in the Brookhaven Reporter:

Cross Keys ceremony retires jersey of former soccer MVP

I have to correct the headline, though - his number is not retired. I did suggest the Coach consider it a number of honor for future team captains or mvps to earn.

Anonymous said...

-Maybe one day we'll be smarter on how we treat people in Dekalb

To get soccer fields, DeKalb Latinos learn they need to be heard
July 14, 2004 AJC

The fields at Dresden Park are more than a little torn up.
The players use garbage cans, plastic bags, bottles, rocks, extra soccer balls -- anything at hand -- as goals.
The fields were meant for baseball and softball. But now the game of choice is soccer, played mostly by Latinos who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the 24-acre park near Buford Highway in DeKalb County. And because there aren't enough soccer fields, Latino leaders are learning to play a new game in DeKalb: the politics of local government.
A small group met recently with DeKalb officials to talk about Dresden and several other parks in the county that they want improved to address the lack of adequate playing fields.
"This is the start of something," said Adelina Nicholls, president of the Coordinating Council of Latino Community Leaders, a loose-knit group of Hispanics who meet regularly to discuss strategies for solving problems in the Hispanic community. "This is the start of learning how to have access to authority and going through the proper channels. Including the Latino community in the system is a way to solve problems in the community."
In 2002, the group coordinated a petition drive in support of driver's licences for undocumented immigrants. Last year it led a demonstration in front of Doraville City Hall asking for support on the driver's license issue. But sitting down with government officials to discuss issues in the language of the bureaucracy -- master plans, stream buffers and bids -- is something new, Nicholls said.
At stake are Latino youth in DeKalb with few options for recreation, said Detective Frank Figueroa, the Latin American affairs liaison for the DeKalb County Police Department. Recreation is a crucial tool for keeping teenagers away from drugs and gangs, Figueroa said.
"How do you keep kids out of trouble? Sports."
Raul Rodriguez, 15, should know. He plays regular pickup soccer games at Dresden Park with grown men. "I'd like a [youth] league,'' he said. ''Because that way students my age could get away from drugs. . . . We need soccer fields and fields for other sports."
DeKalb County is home to more than 52,000 Latinos, many living near Buford Highway. And this main drag lacks vital green space, said DeKalb Commissioner Gale Walldorff, whose District 2 includes Dresden Park.

Waiting for bureaucracy
After Figueroa discussed the lack of soccer fields with Nicholls and several other Latinos, they requested a meeting with Walldorff and Marvin F. Billups Jr., a deputy director of parks and recreation in charge of planning and development.
The Latinos hoped the June meeting would yield quick results: three fields at Dresden, two small fields at nearby Skyland Park for peewee leagues, and another at Pleasantdale Park in District 1. Figueroa also hopes the county will look at another park, Georgian Hills.
But the group quickly discovered that part of politics is waiting for the bureaucracy to move.
When touring Skyland Park, Billups found that it has a drainage problem and a huge rock protuding from the soil. He is working on finding out the costs to solve those problems. Billups, who is juggling more than 60 park projects, has not had a chance to visit Pleasantdale.
As for Dresden, the amount of open space that can be developed for soccer fields is still in question because of a stream on the northeastern side of the park, Billups said. DeKalb environmental regulations require a 75-foot buffer zone between the edge of the creek and the edge of athletic fields, he explained.
Rodolfo Arebalo, who has played soccer at Dresden Park since 1995, when he was 13 years old, said he and other players didn't know the park's future was up for discussion when its master plan was developed several years ago. "If we had known, several of us would have gone," Arebalo said.

Kim Gokce said...

For those who couldn't make the event or are simply interested, Kaleidoscope has published their coverage of this event along with a very nice video. Check it out in the middle of the page at:

November Kaleidoscope