“I used football as a positive and when I played for the Buffalo Vets, I wasn’t just playing for the team, I was playing for my life,” said Tillman Ward, Jr. as he enthusiastically walked around the stage talking about how he overcame his challenges as a youngster to better his life. “Even after I broke my femur, the coaches still used me to get the rest of my teammates hyped up before games.”
On Dec. 28, up and coming Motivational Speaker Tillman Ward Jr. hosted his first Youth Empowerment Seminar titled “Make a Brighter Day!” at the downtown Buffalo Public Library. The event was held in conjunction with the Buffalo- Western New York Community Peacemakers, which itself is comprised of organizations including the Buffalo United Front, Global Ministries, the MAD DADS, No More Tears Inc., the Stop the Violence Coalition and finally Fathers.
“My father wasn’t around much when I was growing up and both my mother and I faced a lot of adversity during my youth including living in a shelter. I decided that I wanted to make a difference for the youth of Buffalo,” said Mr. Ward, a 2008 graduate of Buffalo’s Bennett High School regarding his calling to be a Motivational Speaker and a Mentor. “I prayed to God about it, and when I got my answer, I put in a two week notice at my two jobs and set out on my current calling which is to be a Motivational Speaker.”
“When thinking of words for Buffalo’s youth, I wondered what our ancestors would say,” Mr. Ward said, transitioning from telling his own story to addressing three major keys to success for the inner-city youth of Buffalo; primarily addressing those who face both academic and criminal activity challenges in their communities. Mr. Ward’s keys to success for Buffalo’s youth were:
• The importance of having self-respect
• Taking advantage of available opportunities
• Taking education seriously
While Mr. Ward was the keynote speaker of the event, there were also several speakers from the Buffalo Peacemakers and organizations described above.
“Very soon we’re going to have a belt drive,” said Melissa Brown, the Administrative Secretary for the Stop the Violence Coalition, who helped introduce Mr. Ward along with local up and coming model Allen Knight.
“Not only does it look bad for young boys to have their pants sagging, but it’s been reported that it will cause health issues for them later on,” stated Ms. Brown.
“In the 1980s we saw an increase in the tide of violence in Buffalo. The Masiello Administration broke down the Buffalo Police Department’s homicide unit to a general crime unit which included other types of crime besides homicides, which caused bodies to literally pile up,” said Rudolphus Boans of Global Ministries.
“The violence just wasn’t going to stop and there was grieving all over the city. As a result, we organized ourselves and marched on City Hall.”
“The major problem with Buffalo and similar communities is that not enough men are leading their households and communities,” said Dwayne Ferguson of Buffalo chapter of MAD DADS.
“The same way we teach kids about HIV/AIDS, we need to teach kids about homicides and its ramifications for all involved,” said Dr. Frederick A. Gelsey, Sr. of the Homicide & Education Prevention Project, who lost his own son to a homicide and later allowed his son’s assailant to take a plea deal. “The mother of the man who murdered my son approached me in a Wal-Mart and apologized to me for what happened. That’s when I knew that my family and I weren’t the only ones affected by my son’s murder.”
In addition to the call for volunteers, the pleas for stopping the violence, and Mr. Ward’s speech, there was also a talent showcase. Malik Robinson, also known by his rap name as “Leeky Bop”, performed to songs, as did Destiny Scott who sung two songs.
“Even if your family says that your goal is unattainable,” Mr. Ward closed out by saying, “you can do whatever it is you are called to do.”
For more information about Tillman Ward Jr. and his future events for youth, or speaking opportunities, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.