Speaker: Susie Stevens
Event: Songs in the Key of Life Pieces (concert/reception)
Date and Time: Saturday, May 5, 7 PM
*Connect. Create. Contribute. Celebrate.
The process began in 1996 when Mary Brown and Larry B. Quick realized it was time to connect.
Mary and Larry discovered five boys near Mary’s work place who were causing trouble because they didn’t have a place to belong.
Larry understood that. He grew up in the rough neighborhoods of Ward 7.
Larry grew up in a single family home.
He knew what it was like to be unsure when your next meal would be. He understood growing up fast so you couldn’t get taken advantage of by the streets. He knew what it was like not to share your emotions because you would be considered weak.
Larry understood these boys. He knew what they needed. He knew that it was time to create.
He began working with them and gave them that place, an outlet for their emotions. His unique brand of art became the foundation for Life Pieces to Masterpieces.
Today as we sit here and enjoy the music, let us allow ourselves to reflect on why Life Pieces is as critical today as it was 15 years ago.
The kids all read books about Martin Luther King this past week. In the words of 9-year-old Malachi, they know that Dr. King fought for equality.
“Why did they make people drink from different water-fountains?” Jayvon asked. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why does the color of your skin matter?” He said.
It is a blessing that our children can grow up in this world, with a black family in the White House. In my day, we would have never allowed ourselves to even think it.
African-Americans have come so far and yet, we are only part way there.
70. That’s the percentage of black children that will grow up in a single family home according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
41. That’s the percentage of black males in DC that will finish high school.
31. That’s the percentage of black males will serve time in prison during their life.
14.1. That’s the percentage of black male unemployment according to the Bureau of Labor. Higher than every other population in the country.
One. Is the number of homicide as a cause of death that plagues black males ages 15-24 as listed by the Center of Disease Control.
Larry Brown saw these problems and he knew he had to create a solution.
We are here today because we refuse to allow black males to hold this burden.
We refuse to let them believe that they must resign their lives to statistics.
We insist that they can do better.
0. That’s how many men Life Pieces has given up on
90. That’s the percent of Life Pieces men that have not been involved in the juvenile system.
100. That’s the percentage of Life Pieces men that have graduated high school.
Also the percentage of LPTM men that have enrolled in post-secondary education.
1,000. That’s how many African-American men have been touched through LPTM
1,500. That’s how many pieces of art have been made at LPTM
Connect. Create. Contribute.
You contribute your time.
You contribute your money.
You contribute your heart to these young men.
Every day these children are picked up from their schools and brought to a loving environment where there is no shortage of books, learning materials, toys or food.
When those boys get to the fourth floor of Charles Drew, they are in a place where no one can take anything from them and that is absolutely critical to the mission of Larry’s vision.
Another critical portion of Larry’s vision is the shield of faith. The colorful principles of loving, giving, language, arts, spiritually and meditation mixed together gives you a brown muddy color which is discipline. Keep mixing these colors and you get a dark, black color that is leadership.
Any young man at Life Pieces to Masterpieces can recite the shield to you.
What’s more is that you can see it.
Each apprentice lives the shield.
You see it when David runs in front of you to hold open the door.
You see it when Travis asks the rest of the class to be quiet and listen to the lead teacher.
You see it when Isaiah starts his homework during playtime so he can do artwork with Brother Seneca
You see it in each senior apprentice.
*Lorenzo McDonald stands before you today an incredible example of what we desire for LPTM men. He came here in 2003 when his older brother brought him by.
At the time of his arrival, Lorenzo was helping his mother raise 4 kids. He was just 13-years-old.
At LPTM, Lorenzo saw Michael Winlow formerly of the Washington Post, he met Al Roker of the Today Show.
Lorenzo had the opportunity through Life Pieces to meet and talk to black males doing things he never really dared to imagine. For the first time, he could see himself in his role models.
For the first time, he could dream.
Lorenzo began aggressively pursuing his education. Today he is a sophomore at Bowie State University majoring in Broadcast Journalism and he is an exemplary mentor for the next generation of Life Pieces men.
Connect. Create. Contribute. Celebrate.
It’s funny how one experience, one decision, one moment can lead to a world of difference…Mary Brown tells the story of how she wanted to be a doctor out of college, but after so many amino acids, she just didn’t want to do it anymore!
Miss Mary, you did not become a doctor, but you have healed. You, Larry, Ben, Elder Bill, Brother Seneca, Brother Maurice and the other countless people involved in the backbone of this organization.
You continue to heal.
At Life Pieces we connect people. We create art. We contribute to our communities.
Today we celebrate.
That’s what we will continue to do. Connect, Create, Contribute and Celebrate the lives of young black men.
Brother Maurice once said, “African-American men are an endangered species. People give to save Siberian tigers. Something as beautiful as African American men should not be extinct either.” I could not have said it better myself.
Enjoy the music. Enjoy the company. Thank you.