TV Judge Greg Mathis walks the walk at Next Door Foundations annual Walk for Children
by B. White
It sits in the middle of a quiet neighborhood like a nondescript Chinese restaurant fits in some neighborhoods. No bells and whistles. It just serves good food. Unlike Chinese restaurants, the Next Door Foundation does more than fit in and it dishes up a lot more than good food. It dishes up plenty of love and opportunities; there recipes are filled with life skill recipes and keys toward success for whole families.
Over a thousand people turned out for The Next Door Foundation’s 21st Annual Walk for Children and it was star-studded occasions with lots of fun. 98.3 AM radio personality Andrea Williams was this year’s co-chair of the walk. Their special guest and keynote speaker was I-Witness’ favorite judge. Judge Greg Mathis of the famed “Judge Mathis Show” (Okay y’all don’t tell Judges Maxine White or Valerie Hill. Holla!). Also on hand were Sheriff David Clark and Executive Director Carol Kemti.
The Next Door Foundation was founded in 1969 and plays a vital role in the community serving more than 2,150 Milwaukee central city children, youth and parents each year.
The Foundation’s early intervention efforts especially benefit children who may be at risk for later school failure. Even the youngest children benefit from early education programs that promote confidence, an eagerness to learn, self-discipline, curiosity and communication skills. Next Door also promotes positive outcomes for children 6-16 years of age by strengthening academics, emphasizing relationships to family, building peer support and encouraging service to the community.
They believe their programs for children and youth can only be successful when reinforced in the home environment. Therefore, their programs concentrate on not only a child’s education, but also the important role a parent (and even grandparent) plays in a young person’s development. By working to enhance the child/parent relationship, their organization seeks to build mutual respect, promote open dialogue, and develop a strong family identity.
The holistic programs offered for families are simplistic, yet it does huge things in our community. The mission of Next Door Foundation: “To support the intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional development of children so they become self-sufficient, contributing members of the community.” The vision is to “position neighborhood children and families for long-term success.”
The morning of the walk was bright and shining. Mothers and their children, fathers and their children, grandmothers and grandfathers were all ready to take that walk for our future.
Grandfathers like Jesse Wray, a soldier who served three years in the United States Armed Services, along with three generations of his family, his son—Clinton, granddaughter—Taylor who as a family has been volunteering with the Next Door Foundation for over seven years. Mr. Wray tells stories of back in the day, his military time, slavery and the times of Jim Crow with the parents and their children.
Children and balloons are everywhere but the beautiful thing is the children are with their parents. They are all waiting for the judge so they can get their walk on.
Andrea, WMCS 1290 talk show host Earl Ingram and yours truly hung out most of the morning having healthy debates on the issues.
Sometimes we had to check Earl, who at times thought he was on the radio running his show. Holla! But we had a great time. Lots of information was being shared with parents, many vendors were on sight. There were all kinds of entertainment, raffles prizes, games, and music.
Here comes the Judge. Judge Mathis was going to lead the walk. He was introduced first and the folks cheered him. I think everyone there was a Judge Mathis fan. The Judge was truly humbled.
But that did not stop him from delivering a powerful message that he wanted to share with the families. The judge thanked everyone for inviting him. He explained how he got to come to Milwaukee, noting that he was called and asked if he would come for the Walk for Children and he said he couldn’t pass that up.
“They are closing schools, doubling class sizes. How do you close schools? Judge Mathis said. “We have to come together and stand up and fight for our children. Eighty percent (of our children) are in jails, with no GED or high school diploma. We need education over incarceration.
“It is proven those who go to pre-school will get a good education, the judge continued. “My wife has five pre-schools and has educated thousands of children. I know the importance of education.”
He shared with us his own troubled youth, and how he went to jail. But 15 years after leaving jail, Judge Mathis got his GED and then a law degree.
He states the main reason he was about recovery is because of his mother. “My Mother was committed to me and put me in pre-school in one of the toughest projects in Detroit. My mom was a maid. She made sure her sons got the proper values and education, a religious education.
“My mother paid the church school $100 a month, and she only paid $80 in rent. She invested more in our education than she did to keep a roof over our heads,” Judge Mathis continued. “That’s the commitment she made to us. She believed if she took her sons to church to teach them values and spiritually. We would have something to always call on in tough and troubled times.”
To the parents, Judge Mathis said no matter what you might be going through invest in your children at an early age. It’s a lot easier and less expensive to visit your child’s school than to visit them in jail.
He then asked the gathering to repeat after him: “We need communities to rise up like they did in the ’60’s.” His message to ministers: “We need pastors to open up their churches to help educate and provide after school programs for our children. You don’t need a $1,000 suit and a lot of bling. Take that money and let’s start investing in the children.”
His message to young people: “You now have the opportunity to dominate in politics, sports, entertainment…whatever your hearts desire.
“Don’t pay any attention to the haters, who call you stuck up, or you’re trying to be White because you work hard in school. Repeat after me: “I’m too good for drugs, I am too good for guns, I’m too good for crime, I’m too good for sex before marriage and I’m too good for anything that will stand in my way of my progress and completing my goals!”
Y’all should have been there. The young people cheered the judge. During the walk the judge walked it. He walked the two miles in his suit (It wasn’t a $1,000 one either, Holla!) You could see in his eyes his true love for all the children and especially those who at one time were just like him.
Upon his return to the Next Door Foundation, Judge Mathis helped raffle off a few of his books and did a photo session with just about as many children and adults. He hardly refused anyone an autograph or a picture.
Once we were back inside, I-Witness did get to ask a few questions. I asked his honor what could be done to help children and their families?
The judge said there needs to be programs for ex-offenders like he has in Detroit that he pays for out of his own pocket and with no government funds. He trains men to do janitorial work, and other training to help many become businessmen and start their own business.
“We need more funding for education and mentors for pre-schoolers and K-12. The stats keep showing that children who attend pre-schools and programs like head start become the most successful in life. We can keep paying $50,000 a year to keep housing our children in the prison system or we can start putting money into early education and mentoring programs. The judge and I had good conversation about many things.”
I also asked him how he deals with folks who come on his show and tell all their business, everything but what they are there for? He laughed and said, “I deal with them just like you deal with some of them folks in yo’ family.” I had to laugh at that. Holla!
Hey Next Door Foundation, I had a great time. I thank you for bringing Judge Mathis here. He provided a lot of energy and hope for many of the children and their families.
I want to salute the 700 volunteers at the Next Door Foundation as well who work on a daily bases trying to give children hope of a brighter day. Atten-tion Salute!
Judge Mathis, thank you for loving and caring about children. You were like a rock star out there among the children and you really made their day and their parents. Holla!
It takes special people to love children and the Next Door Foundation and Judge Mathis are truly special people. Keep advancing that next generation.
August 19, 2012 //
Question of the week: "Recently two former Negro Baseball League stars were honored by the Milwa...
August 19, 2012 //
Question of the Week: “Do you know on August 14 there is a primary election? Do you think there ...