Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

May 5, 2012

Judge Phipps appeals to parents in speech to 100 Black Men Friday

VALDOSTA — Herbert E. Phipps, presiding judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, delivered a powerful address Friday evening as the keynote speaker for the 100 Black Men of Valdosta, Inc. Annual Black Tie Dinner.

Held at Valdosta Middle School, the event was sold out, with more than 220 in attendance. Judge Phipps held the audience’s rapt attention as he spoke on the plight of underprivileged children.

“An underprivileged child needs friends and supporters, not critics. Groups like the 100 Black Men are more important than ever, as studies show that people are inclined to give less to help African-American youth when they get past the elementary school age,” said Phipps.

The judge continued, saying that research shows that as black children get older, the negative associations go up and charity goes down.

“You start hearing words like lazy, unreliable, dumb, and irresponsible. I think those who use those stereotypes are the ones who are lazy, unreliable, dumb and irresponsible,” he said.

“It’s words like these that spawn incidents like the Trayvon Martin incident. Inflammatory rhetoric leads to tragedy.”

Phipps said too often, those who hinder the progress of underprivileged black youth are inside the community.

“They hinder and hurt, and are the enemy within.”

He said he can’t remember a time in his life that there hasn’t been conversation about the problems such as poverty and race.

“We don’t need

conversation. We’ve been talking for too long. We need action.”

Phipps then delivered the main point of his powerful message: “For too long, people have been making excuses for men not helping raise their children!”

He said when both parents are involved in their child’s life, whether they live together or not, it makes all the difference.

“A child born in poverty with both parents involved, raised in the ghetto, has a much better chance of succeeding than a child with only one parent involved who is raised in the suburbs.”

Phipps said the key to curing the problems associated with underprivileged children is to encourage and strengthen the family structure.

“There is no substitute for loving, supportive parents.”

Phipps served as a juvenile judge in Albany for seven years, and said, “It’s rare to see a child in court who has both parents’ support. It’s either one parent or a grandmother. The ones who do come to court with both parents rarely returned. Parents do make a difference and a child needs both. Too many fathers are absent.”

The judge said the issues will not go away until men help women raise their children.

“Children join gangs because it’s a family. If they have no adults at home, they have no family, so they find a gang. In my home, my gang was J. W. and Mary Phipps (his parents). They’ll look for a family somewhere and when parents aren’t there, a gang will be.”

Phipps said he is asked at times if he believes in home schooling.

“Absolutely I believe in home schooling- from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. If children aren’t learning what they need to at home from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m., it is unrealistic to expect a teacher to teach them from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

The judge continued, “Parents need to teach their children to read, write, and speak the English language well. They need to learn that appearance matters. When I see a boy with his pants down so far you can see all of his underwear, I know that boy is going to be a problem, not a contributor, and I know in his home, there is no father.”

Among several anecdotes he shared, Phipps related the tale of a young man whose father made him work in the fields while his two sisters got to stay at home with their mother. “He told his father that it wasn’t fair, and his father told him, ‘Son, the fair only comes once a year for about three days, so get back to work!.’”

Phipps quoted a number of historic leaders and said they all have traits in common, but typically, they became what they did and rose to the top, not because they were smarter than everyone else, but because they outworked everyone else.

The judge’s comments were met with tremendous applause throughout his speech from the audience of community leaders, educators, elected officials, church leaders, professors, attorneys and judges.

Following the keynote speech, 100 Black Men member Willie Head presented Community Service Awards to Dr. Janice Richardson, principal of J.L. Newbern Middle School; Thomas Newbern of First Federal Savings and Loan; and Alex Thomas, the manager of Big Lots.

100 Black Men President Roy Copeland thanked all of the sponsors of the event, noting that only 3 empty seats remained in the entire room, and informed the audience that the organization’s new house will be dedicated in June after more than a year of renovations. The house is located at the corner of Troup St. and MLK.

In addition to the dynamic speaker, the highlight of the evening was the performance by the J.L. Newbern Male Choir, under the director of Brent Brinson. The young men sang Motown tunes before presenting a moving rendition of their school’s song, an uplifting message set to the tune of Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down,” which brought the room to its feet for a standing ovation.

The Annual Black Tie Dinner is one of several fundraising events the 100 Black Men of Valdosta hold each year, including the annual BBQ Cook Off in August, to fund their mentoring and tutoring programs, along with scholarships presented annually to students.

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