Black Culture Foundation to Host Black Rose Awards
By Dianne Anderson
Finally, some good news.
Accolades are soon in store for this year’s honorees of the San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation distinguished Black Rose Awards.
On Friday, September 8, the annual event will be held at the National Orange Show, Renaissance Room located at 689 So. E Street in San Bernardino. Social hour starts at 6:00 p.m. and programming at 7:00. Tickets are $65 per person.
This year’s honorees include Gwendolyn Dowdy Rodgers named Humanitarian of the Year, Clarisa Howard who will receive the Community Service Award, and the esteemed Black Rose Awards go to Eta Phi Beta Sorority, Lesford Duncan and Jamie Rios.
Lesford Duncan is strengthening families by getting more dads involved with their kids. He said the Black Rose Award is a privilege that he shares with many that are doing good local work.
Duncan credits the positive impact to successful collaborations with the coalition, which started while he worked at San Bernardino County Children’s Network and First 5 San Bernardino. Since then, he said that the program development is helping address the high rate of absentee fathers in the Inland Empire.
“I’m just honored to be alongside some really fantastic individuals in building community resilience among our most vulnerable children and youth, and building resilience among family,” said Duncan, Co-Chair of the Inland Empire Father Involvement Coalition.
Locally, he said the data shows that over one-third of all households have an absent father. For Black families nationwide, that statistic is even more striking, representing 55% of all Black households.
“That has huge implications within our communities. We know that when a father is absent, a child’s school performance suffers, a child’s mental health suffers,” he said.
Fathers absent from the family structure have a long ripple effect. It increases the likelihood of entanglement with child welfare and juvenile justice systems, along with higher rates of teen pregnancy.
In recent years, his programming has helped fathers in the Inland Empire, and is reaching fathers through partner programs, such as the Nurturing Fathers, the Inland Empire Fatherhood Conference, and an Annual Fatherhood Breakfast.
Aside from regularly hosted outreach, he especially focuses on building the capacity of agencies and eligibility workers to engage fathers for better outcomes.
In some cases, agencies are now referring fathers to the Annual Fatherhood Conference and Fatherhood Breakfast.
He said that he appreciates the Black Rose Award, and partnerships that are working together to strengthen the community.
“It’s really the baby of a strong collective of agencies and individuals who have been passionate about fatherhood engagement and stuck with it to bring this to the table,” he said.
Humanitarian of the Year, Gwendolyn Dowdy Rodgers, said that growing up in San Bernardino inspired her nonprofit, the Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation.
She said the local recognition is an unexpected honor.
“I’ve been doing this, but I’m just one of the people flying under the radar,” she said. “It’s for the glory of God. I am thankful for it all.”
Some of her motivation comes from a feeling of local duty, but mostly it’s a labor of love to get the girls prepared in spite of the difficulties they face. They bring a lot of spirit and energy, which fuels her own passion for the program.
“They know me because I’m there in the trenches with them,” said Dowdy Rodgers, who also serves on the city school board. “I’m calling and checking on them at school, and they’re calling me.”
From the program’s inception, she was aware of the pressing need to support young women in the city that she loves. And, she still sees San Bernardino as a great community, one that has molded her into the person she is today.
She also follows a long line of family members from San Bernardino who were active in giving back to the community. She said that a big part of her story is also her ministry and its guiding principle to help women on the right path in life.
“Even though I had a great family that has done amazing things, people have supported me and the community was like my second family,” she said.
When she first started YWE, the goal was to serve, but her first big question was to herself.
“What is my expertise to give? Is it talking with someone, sharing of yourself? It’s not always monetary or materialistic. It’s giving of you,” she said.