Ringing the Bell
By Reggie Beamon
In the spirit of the “Gathering,” thousands of Waterburians with roots from various parts of the globe assembled, paraded, performed and connected with each other. The impetus of this event promotes the belief that every person, no matter where they might have come from can excel, while highlighting the values we uphold and the importance of cultural contributions to the entire society.
Recently, our city also celebrated a day of prayer at City Hall. Days of prayer unite various religions under one umbrella, acknowledging the importance of belief in an entity superior to oneself. Day of Prayer celebrations are faith based programs which uplift through the calling on a higher spirit, armored with belief and faith that change will come.
Reverend Leon H. Sullivan in Build Brother Build stated, “If a man has a religion to believe in, and a faith to hold on to, then, some how, in spite of the most crippling and oppressive circumstances, he will overcome; properly motivated a man can do almost anything.”
Without spiritual guidance, most OIC programs and Centers would have floated around like ships without compasses.
When Sullivan designed OIC, he felt the church, primarily the black church, at that time, had an integral role to play in job creation and opportunity. Organizing the OIC movement, he insisted that each OIC site develop a “clergy support committee”. Since then each OIC has does its best to have a member of the clergy prominently seated on its Board.
At WOIC, we are blessed to have the Reverend Dr. Leroy Perry, heading our effort. Reverend Perry, is a Waterbury native and Yale graduate. His education and pastoring appointments took him away from Connecticut, until he returned to us to become pastor of Mt. Olive A.M.E. Zion Church. Reverend Perry understands the mission of self-help and opportunity. Providing the space of his church, he hosted a forum on black business. Reverend Perry embraces a theology of empowerment. As a WOIC board member, he keeps our focus on uplifting this community.
We do not “preach” at WOIC, yet we urge, occasionally incite and stir up those who also embrace our vision and mission to assist in overcoming their obstacles. Training people for life to succeed, “faith” as Sullivan wrote, is a motivating factor.
At WOIC we believe that the spirit should be joined with hands-on experience of learning skills and training, and so at WOIC we are developing a pilot program on wellness, exercise, nutrition, financial awareness and citizenship, to compliment and assist, in a holistic method, those who seek training opportunities.
Over our 40 years, WOIC has discovered it really does not matter how many programs this non-profit or other non-profits or the government might start, without individualistic faith in one’s self, tangible long term impact of these programs will not develop the whole person. Those clients who fail or may not complete a program, typically do not express or practice an earnest and genuine effort. Unfortunately, we realize that everyone who comes through our doors to begin a program will not be a success story.
However, those who have the vision to see the end result and apply a constant attentive approach, usually are the ones who, despite whatever roadblocks encountered, keep a faith that endures the length of the journey.
We ring the bell today for Reverend Leroy Perry, WOIC Board member Reverend Thomas Mallory and all the clergy who understand how OIC empowers.