Standing Ovation for Yonkers MBK Third Anniversary
Stage Hopping: Student MC Just Back from Obama Foundation Summit Appearance
The young man with the short, bleached dreadlocks and easy smile might have been mistaken for a professional entertainer. Clad in a crisp sky blue dress shirt, De’Andre Brown confidently held the microphone and ignited the crowd gathered at the Riverfront Library Auditorium on November 15 for Yonkers My Brother’s Keeper’s Third Anniversary Celebration.
“MBK All Day!” said De’Andre, guest M.C. at For Us, By Us, a student performing and visual arts talent showcase attended by hundreds of students, parents, community members and public officials. He co-hosted with M.C. Giovanni Almonte, an MBK student leader at Saunders Trades & Technical High School.
It’s little wonder that De’Andre felt so at home on stage. Less than two weeks earlier, he addressed a national audience on stage at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago. “When I was in high school, I struggled with emotional challenges,” said the 2019 graduate of Yonkers Middle High School. “But the My Brother’s Keeper initiative supported me and believed in me.” Now a freshman at New York University, De’Andre said, “MBK gave me the confidence to do things I never thought I could do.”
De’Andre was selected to serve as one of two New York State My Brother’s Keeper Fellows from Yonkers in 2018 and won a highly competitive scholarship from the New York State Department of Education in 2019 just after being elected President of the Yonkers MBK Youth Advisory Council by his peers. “De’Andre embodies the promise of this movement,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edwin M. Quezada, Yonkers MBK Co-Chair with Rev. Dr. Jim Bostic, Executive Director of the Nepperhan Community Center. “He is not only focused on his own success, but he works to uplift the next generation as well.” Rev. Dr. Bostic said, “De’Andre is a very talented young man who first shared the stage with President Obama at the 2018 Obama Foundation MBK Rising Summit in Oakland and is now receiving well deserved worldwide recognition.”
Many talented young people joined De’Andre in sharing their gifts at Yonkers MBK’s Third Anniversary Celebration fundraiser.
Performing Arts Talent Showcase
The evening spotlighted a diverse array of student performers including a Cross Hill Academy MBK drum line, rappers Aiden Bergen and Jessiah Bartley from Saunders Trades and Technical High School, bilingual spoken word artist Anibal E. Alberto Jaquez from Yonkers Middle High School and Lincoln High School’s Multicultural Dance Ensemble.
In an exciting flash mob finale, Saunders My Sister’s Keeper (MSK) student Gleny Perez sang “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman – a song about self-acceptance in defiance of social disapproval. Saunders MBK and MSK classmates then jumped up in the aisles, converging on stage in a dance choreographed by MBK brothers Klanell and Keon Lee. Public Safety Officer Kenneth Taylor and teacher Keasha Bodrick, both Saunders MBK advisors, joined their students in the dance that inspired an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience. “The song brought out so many emotions,” Keon said. “It makes you feel like you’re not the only one to go through things.”
Special guests included local celebrity DJ Tri State Jericko, featuring his daughter Dara Paige singing “My Daddy is a DJ”; author Charles R. Smith, Jr. reciting his poem “About Me” and artist Stefano Luigi Guida who created “MBK Freestyle” a painting at the event dedicated to Yonkers MBK. The performing arts showcase also included the presentation of Yonkers MBK 2019 awards. (See MBK Awards Section)
Visual Arts Showcase and VIP Reception
For Us, By Us began with a Student Visual Arts Showcase centering on Taking off Our Masks, an exhibit featuring plaster of Paris masks created by MBK students to reveal the dramatic contrast between the outer “masks” they show the world and their true inner lives. Several hundred students, parents, community leaders, businesspeople and dignitaries gathered to support a lasting future for the MBK movement and raise funds for the expansion of Yonkers MBK’s mentorship and college-readiness programs as well as the establishment of new initiatives aligned with the movement’s six milestones. The MGM/Empire City Casino, Spolzino Smith Buss & Jacob and the Yonkers Economic Development Agency were among the largest contributors.
“We are working hard to prepare our students to take full advantage of the growing opportunities the MBK movement is bringing to Yonkers,” said Dr. Quezada.“We have come a long way in three years and I’m excited for where we are heading,” said Rev. Dr. Bostic, whose nonprofit was awarded one of 10 Community Impact Grants from the Obama Foundation’s MBK Alliance in 2018 to carry out the work of Yonkers MBK.
At the VIP reception, dignitaries including New York State Senator Shelley B. Mayer, New York State Assembly Members J. Gary Pretlow and Nader J. Sayegh and Edgar Santana (representing Governor Andrew Cuomo) congratulated Yonkers MBK’s 2019 Defenders of the Dream honoree The Vulcan Society of Westchester County, a fraternal organization of black professional firefighters who have served as mentors to Yonkers MBK high school students since 2017.