Friends and Neighbors

On Father’s Day, special thanks to surrogate dads

Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers out there. And a special greeting to all the surrogate and single fathers.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say "Thanks" to my pastor and godfather, Bishop Walter H. Richardson, who with his wisdom, fatherly love, and compassion, helped me to become the woman I am today. Not only is he my godfather, he has he been my spiritual father for more than 50 years, and was a surrogate father to my sons Rick and Shawn.

My parents separated when I was 5, and so I never had a relationship with my biological dad, even though I tried many times to reach out to him. I am so thankful that Bishop helped to fill that void.

I thank him for the Sundays after church when he and his late wife Poseline, invited my boys over to their home. It was an honored invitation for my sons, and a welcome opportunity for their busy, single mom to have some well-needed "me time." Bishop’s own two sons were already grown up and he and his wife could have enjoyed the quietness of their home with just the two of them. Instead, Bishop saw a need and acted on it.

Bishop is 90 years old now. And his sweet spirit seems to grow even more as he ages. I am amazed at the sharpness of his wit and the wisdom of his words. I can never thank him enough for being a father figure, not only to me, but also to my sons.

There is another man I remember on this Father’s Day: the late, great Fred Shaw. Although Fred died over 40 years ago, I am a journalist today because of him. I met Fred when I was a file clerk in the Miami Herald’s library and he immediately became my mentor. He was a vice president at Miami Dade Community College and also the paper’s book editor at the time. I was taking classes at the college and whenever I had an important paper to write, I’d ask Fred to read it before I turned it in. One day he asked me what my major was. I told him it was education. He told me to change my major to journalism because I had a future at the paper as a writer.

I laughed. There were no black reporters at the paper at that time. (A short time later my childhood friend , the late Thiralee Smith became the paper’s first black reporter.) Fred said, "Things are going to change, Bea, and you need to be ready for the change."

I did, and as they say, the rest is history.

So today, I just want to say thanks to my godfather and to my late mentor and father-figure. You both hold a special place in my heart.

84-year-old graduates high school

Recently I met a woman in the doctor’s office and we started a friendly conversation. Her name is Lula M. Foster and she was more than happy to let me know that she had accomplished a longtime dream by becoming a high school graduate.

This wouldn’t be a news item if Foster wasn’t already 84 years old. She was awarded her high school diploma in a ceremony on June 14 at Miami Dade Colleges Wolfson Campus.

Foster, who lives in North Miami Beach, told me she dropped out of school when she was in the eighth grade in Bainbridge, Ga., to marry her sweetheart. Soon, she was a young mom of four, and there was no time to continue her education. The family moved to Miami. And years later, in 2007, Foster’s beloved John, died and later she decided to enter the GED program at Miami Dade College.

In addition to her four grown children, Foster said she is the grandmom of "many." And she is quick to tell you that she has earned a high school diploma, not a GED certificate. She said in January, she plans to enroll in computer science at Miami Dade College.

Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

Soup Kitchen needs help

The Homestead Soup Kitchen needs our help. The kitchen, which opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1983, serves as few as 125 meals early in the month, and as many as 280 later on in the month. Recently the kitchen has experienced serious financial challenges and is asking the community to help.

Bob Jensen, a board member of the soup kitchen said, "Contributions are needed to pay for electricity, propane, disposable table ware and cleaning supplies. He said generous donations of food from local farmers, Farm Share, the postal food drive and the Homestead Food Pantry help keep the expenses down while providing nourishing meals."

But, he said traditional contributors, such as individuals, businesses, churches and non-profit organizations have decreased their support as the economy continues to impact them.

If you want to help, please send your tax-deductible donations to: Homestead Soup Kitchen, P.O. Box 901180, Homestead, FL 330390-1180.

You may call Juanita Smith, president of the kitchen, at 305-245-7448, for more information.

Remembering the ‘Middle Passage’

Here’s one that’s worth waking up early for:

The annual Sunrise Ancestral Remembrance of the Middle Passage Ceremony will be at 5:45 a.m. on June 23 at Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr. on Virginia Key (just off the Rickenbacker Causeway).

The community is invited to this worthwhile ceremony that is presented by Dos Amigos/Fair Rosamond Slave Ship Project; Drums N Unity ; Productive Hands; Florida Black Historical Research Project Inc., and the Miami African World Community.

This is the 24th year of the ceremony that honors all the ancestors who endured the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade — the millions of men, women and children who senselessly perished, and those who survived to give life to present and future generations, said Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, a founder and organizer of the event.

Catherine Hummingbird, a Carib Tribal Indian Queen and longtime advocate who was instrumental in saving the Miami Circle, will perform an "Opening of the Way" Native American ritual at the event.

The annual ceremony has come to be linked over the years with the growing nationwide observance of Juneteenth, the June 19 commemoration of the date in 1865, when the last of the enslaved population in the United States, in East Texas, received word of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Everyone is welcome to the ceremony. Aside from the Native American blessings and the traditional African pouring of a libation, the ceremony is an informal gathering where all are welcome to share thoughts, prayers, art and artifacts, performances and offerings of fruits, grains, flowers, which will be carried out to the ocean to culminate the events.

The event will also feature drums, music and refreshments. Admission is free, but there is a $1.75 toll per vehicle on the causeway.

For more information call 305-904-7620 or 786-260-1246.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.

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