I met Bernard “Bernie” Jones at Fifth Avenue High School and over the years we remained the best of friends. We travelled different paths, but we never lost focus on that which was important and beneficial to the advancement of Black people.
Bernie died so he is no longer with us physically, but because of his ingenuity and foresight in the founding of UYA and Poise Foundation he will always be with us.
In last week’s edition of the New Pittsburgh Courier there appeared a news release that read UYA closing. It was a very appalling and distressing story, a productive program that has been in existence a total of 45 years and has touched and influenced the lives of between 10,000-20,000 males and females. Over the years I have met and known (including my daughters) males and females who have always been eager to relate to their experiences at the UYA and what a wonderful person Mr. Bernard Jones was.
Richard Gillcrease in every conversation that I have engaged him has never failed to discuss his experience at UYA and what a committed, concerned, compassionate and man of courage Mr. Bernard Jones was. Richard talks about Bernie and the UYA with the same feeling he does about his church.
Once again an organization that is an icon is closing and too many of us just accept it by saying, “Well, the governmental body cut the money off.” However, I have grown sick and tired of Blacks across this county in particular of being totally dependent upon someone else to fund our programs and institutions. Do we remember that Lemington Home still sits upon the hill in East Liberty vacant? Why is it that some of these organizations can’t merge? I have spoken to a number of alumni who were recipients of UYA and they have informed me that people who participated at the UYA currently occupy every position conceivable. They are everyday responsible citizens, doctors, attorneys, pharmacists, educators, business people, media personalities, etc.
Aesop stated that “people who go through life with their hands outstretched and palms facing upward are perceived as beggars.”
There are those of us who respected Bernie and those thousands, who directly benefitted from UYA have an obligation to raise whatever amount of money it takes to ensure that Mr. Bernard Jones’s dream continues. The time is long overdue that we as a people begin to pay our own way.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)