Making a impact in communities where the word ‘help’ is heard throughout
the city of Baltimore, but many with the power to respond and make change turn
a deaf nose. This is not the case for Baltimore native and Green Bay Packer Hall
of Famer Antonio Freeman who is a product of East Baltimore and faced the same
issues the youth of today, nationwide, face. Freeman is a competitor by heart and this
weekend, he issued a challenge to the youth of Baltimore as he presented his first
annual Literacy Challenge. The challenge is to get 68 African-American males spanning from the 3rd to the 5th grade to read a total of 35 books between now November 2009 and May 2010. Through Freeman’s foundation, BmoreFree Programs, partnered with Outside the Locker Room, this challenge will be one that all will win.
“My charitable foundation is dedicated to help to improve the lives of youth and families in Baltimore,” said Freeman who is a football analyst for Comcast Sports covering the Washington Redskins. “This weekend’s event will focus on the importance of literacy, as literacy is still a major problem in the U.S.” The event starts Nov. 6th at Freeman’s former elementary school, Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary, to promote reading. On Saturday Nov.7th, there will be an autograph session and sports trivia event at the Reginald F. Lewis for the community to come out and meet Freeman and the area’s other successful athletes from ‘Charn City’. At hand will be Keion Carpenter, Tommy Polley, Jean Fugett, Reggie White, Charles “Choo” Smith, Gregory Branch, Kellen Wallace, and Kirk Lee who all played either in the NFL, NBA and MLB. Also attending are current and former Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore natives such Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets, Bryant Johnson of the Detroit Lions and Sam Cassell assistant head coach of the Washington Wizards will not be in attends because they are in season with their profession. “The goal of the reading challenge is to encourage the boys to read and introduce them to the power of reading,” said Freeman. “It’s important for us to stress to the kids that can’t play ‘Playstation’ all day because that’s not going to enable to you to get a job. Reading is the key that will allow students to be able to achieve their goals and dreams.”
The Boys that attended the elementary school for the reading received a copy of the book, Mama’s Boyz, by award winning author and illustrator, Jerry Craft, out of Harlem, NY as their first book. This book talks about African-American families and their communities.
This event may already generated other interest from other schools, But Harris was the first step. The city of Baltimore was not involved with this event, but in due time, they will and at the same time, waiting for the government can be a down fall. “I didn’t formally go to City Hall in regards to this initiative,” said Freeman. “My team met directly with McCaskill (the book’s publication), the principal of the school and some of her staff and they were very excited to have a literacy challenge focused on boys to come to their school. As we look to expand, I will definitely reach out to City Hall and the school board; however, we must remember that as individuals, we all have the power to invoke positive change. People don’t have to wait for the government to do something. Each of us can make a positive impact in our communities in our own way because the reality is that the government can’t do everything.”
Freeman’s passion for communities is just as strong or stronger than the passion he brought to the football field. Freeman may don’t score touchdowns in the NFL anymore, but his goal line now is the see young boys goals and dreams achieved. “It is my hope that through our current and future literacy challenges, BmoreFree Programs, will encourage young black boys to make a concerted effort to graduate from high school and pursue their future goals and dreams,” said Freeman.