“Nicole Edwards and I started MobPacers in March. It was the beginning of the Coronavirus and Nicole had just lost her mother. My dad had health issues, so we both wanted to do more to take care of ourselves. I live downtown and was going to exercise anyway. All I needed was someone to say come walk. We now have a group that walks about seven miles every day. I have lost 15 pounds. I had to buy a new jacket because I went down a couple of sizes and my old jacket looked like a choir robe. MobPacers has become a community, even if some haven’t exercised in years or didn’t know anyone else in the group. Some live in West Mobile or other suburbs and are seeing the Oakleigh Garden District and downtown for the first time. I try to give a little tour as we go. Everyone has been welcoming on the streets and in the neighborhoods. They cheer us on and put water out for us. My parents sit on their porch to say hi and wave as we pass by. There is a Jackson State University flag hanging on their porch because that is where I went to college. The guys who walk with us may not have gone there, but they know it is the best university. We walk Monday through Friday at 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. on Saturdays and everyone is welcome. We start at Christ Church Cathedral. They support us and provide cold water for us at the end of each walk
I played trombone in The Sonic Boom at Jackson State and was a section leader for three years. That was one of the best experiences of my life and I credit that with the leadership skills I use today in organizations and as director of Dir. of Federal Program (TRiO SSS) at Coastal Alabama Community College. I also play trombone in the Excelsior Band. It is fun and a tradition that has to be kept alive. The Excelsior Band started in 1883 from Creole families. Mr. Pope lived Down the Bay and the birth of his son was celebrated by playing in the streets.
My family has lived in the Maysville community since 1875. I grew up in Mobile and love helping to make the city better, but the problems are systemic and policies need to be changed. Leadership has to bring us together and we must be more socially engaged. African Americans are spiritual and loving people. We want the best for everyone. Crime is a function of poverty and the policies that have been put in place over the years. I think poverty is the number one issue in Mobile and it has a lot to do with housing. Over the past 40 years, people have moved out of Mobile, leaving behind their grandparents’ homes. They don’t pay the property taxes or keep up the house. Some don’t even know about the houses. That’s where blight comes in. The houses are tied up in wills and that takes years to decide. The city has been working on this with a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies that has helped, but there is still a lot more work to do.
Many kids in poverty don’t have a chance for mentorship, but there are also some in Mobile trying to fill that role. I have been the lead mentor for the Kappa League for Kappa Alpha Psi for 18 years. I have high expectations and don’t play the radio with these guys. We have the number one Kappa League program in the country. We have five advisors and every year about 100 guys from all of the high schools go out for 30 slots. The members select their new members so the accountability falls on the young men in the program and the one seeking membership. This is their organization and they are killing it. Since 2005, they have amassed over $55 million in scholarship offers. 147 have completed 4-year college degrees. They are doctors, lawyers, and pastors. I go to a lot of dinners with the alumni and get to meet the wives, and fiances. One is a senior manager for Delta and we are having dinner when he comes through town tonight. All of these boys are from different backgrounds in Mobile. After they make it through, they appreciate that I just want the best for them.
Our health, our policies, our education, and our youth. We have to expect the best out of each other and the best out of Mobile. We also have to be willing to get out there and do the work. That is how we move forward.”