Bishop Charles E. Blake, pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, and businessman Earvin “Magic” Johnson are partnering to offer advancement services to equip African American men to succeed in life.
During the official launch event on March 18 at West Angeles COGIC, the two leaders announced the initiative before an audience of 400+ men attending the church’s Brotherhood Organization gathering.
The program, billed as “Super Saturday,” featured breakfast and motivational speeches by Blake, Johnson and actor and entrepreneur Romell Witherspoon.
“This initiative was birthed out of a deep concern about poor academic achievement, financial disenfranchisement, high unemployment, soaring crime levels, the desperate state of the African-American male and the breakdown of the family unit that plagues our cities, small and large, urban and rural,” explained Blake.
To combat those challenges, the advancement services will focus on education (access, excellence and equity), economic development (job creation and training), crime prevention (reduction and rehabilitation), family life (developing healthy men, women and children) and financial literacy (earning, saving, investing and spending wisely).
While West Angeles COGIC already offers 20 programs specifically for men, Blake noted the Super Saturday event strengthens the church’s effort to do even more to help African American males.
“This is kind of a special day to have Earvin with us now and Witherspoon, a very sharp entrepreneur, to share with us from a millennial perspective. Nobody’s a better businessman than Earvin “Magic” Johnson. He’s taking us to another level and we’re going to continue as long as we are here,” said Blake.
Explaining that the initiative is another step towards community improvement, Johnson said, “The face of our community changed when Bishop built the church (West Angeles Cathedral). I think people’s minds were changed, so now we have products and services and goods that we never had before in our community.
“We have had so many things happen that are positive in our community. This is what it’s all about. We’ve got to continue to take striving steps to make our community better.”
Johnson’s commitment to community development and empowerment is illustrated by his long history of establishing businesses and hiring people in underserved communities across the nation. In South L.A., he is heralded for opening a movie theater, several Starbucks and other businesses in the area. Through his Magic Johnson Foundation, he sponsors a number of philanthropic campaigns such HIV educational and awareness programs.
A 25-year member of West Angeles COGIC and president of the L.A. Lakers, Johnson said, “I’m never going to change. It’s not about my job or what I do, but who I am. I will always be a man who will be involved.”
“His businesses that he manages here in Los Angeles and the economic opportunities he provides are in the hood or near the hood. So I’m very proud of him and his efforts to improve to enhance the community,” added Blake.