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Our Founder’s Story

BACK IN THE EARLY 1960’S, I WAS A BOY SCOUT AND AN ALTAR BOY. It was that time in America when every Black family had the same
three pictures hanging on their living room walls: JFK, Martin Luther
King Jr., and Jesus Christ.

I remember waking up on weekdays to see proud Black men gathered on
the corner with brown paper lunch bags in their hands. That was the sign
they needed a ride to work—an informal transportation system that
carried them to Sparrows Point, Bethlehem Steel and other manufacturing
jobs.

These men earned enough money to buy a little row home in the city
and pay for their children’s education. I liked how the same guys showed
up every day like clockwork. Collectively they left me with a single
impression: This is manhood.

When I turned 9, my parents split up and life became more chaotic.
Living in the East Baltimore projects wasn’t kid stuff, especially for
my friends and me, who didn’t have positive male role models to guide
us. We ended up succumbing to the wrong influences, including drugs …
and whatever it took to buy those drugs.

I went to jail, went to treatment and eventually came out on the
other side of that darkness. But sometimes it’s the journey that informs
us the most; our failures that make us capable of helping others to
succeed.

Our society has created a lot of structure, policy and practices to support women and children — and I always say this — it’s for all the right reasons. But I believe fatherhood is our best anti-poverty
strategy.

Children who grow up without dads are more likely to be depressed,
drop out of school, become teen parents and use drugs and alcohol. In
fact, there are executives sitting in boardrooms right now, using stats
about third graders as ammunition to convince legislators to build more
prisons. How bleak is that?

At the Center for Urban Families, we offer a brighter alternative for
kids and adults. We give our members the tools they need to become
present, capable, loving co-parents regardless of whether or not they’re
in a romantic relationship. We also help them develop skills to secure
and keep living-wage jobs so they can create healthy, stable families.

SO OUR WORK LOOKS AND FEELS DIFFERENT than many other organizations.
We’re not serving cuddly little people here. But once you strip away
the adult facade, you get a glimpse at who they once were as children. It is truly beautiful to watch these transformations in progress.

Our members’ accomplishments have exponential impact. Time and time
again, their family, friends, co­workers and employers tell us how their
new attitudes have inspired them to change their own lives or shifted
their perspective.

When change multiplies, possibilities become endless. If we could
build a whole community of adults who are able make that transition and
drop them in a Sandtown-Winchester, we could change the trajectory of
that neighborhood in a heartbeat. No criminal justice intervention
required.

We hire exceptional people at CFUF, including some who’ve
graduated from our own programs. These folks aren’t just living examples
of lasting change, but they are adept at providing trauma-informed care
that enables our members to release years of emotional damage and
become whole again.

This work is deeply rooted in what the disintegration of the family has left behind.

Our caring staff provides the authentic love that every human being, regardless of age or upbringing, craves and deserves. 

There are lost children just like our members in cities all across America. They
have no real connections; no sense of belonging. But the truth is, they
belong to all of us. And our future as an organization, a city and a
nation is inextricably linked with theirs in ways it has never been
before.

That’s why I continue to walk the walk with our members and staff
each day. I hope you will be inspired by their stories — and invite you
to join us on that journey.

Thank you for being part of our family!