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Founding president returns for Eleven Black Men of Liberty County annual banquet
Pedro Bryant, center left, founding president of the Eleven Black Men of Liberty County, stands with award recipients during the organizations banquet Saturday. - photo by Photo by Lawrence Dorsey

The Eleven Black Men of Liberty County had its 22nd annual Scholarship Banquet Saturday at Club Stewart. The evening’s theme was "There is Liberty in Literacy: Expand Your Mind, Expand Your Life."

Guest speaker Pedro Bryant, a Hinesville native, was the first president of the Eleven Black Men of Liberty County. Bryant is chairman, president and CEO of Metro Bank in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Morris Brown College and a Master of Business Administration from Georgia Southern University.

Bryant talked about the people who have influenced his life and emphasized that, "There is no substitute for reading."

He commended the directors of the Eleven Black Men for their "steadfast commitment," support and guidance in the program.

The Eleven Black Men of Liberty County is a mentoring organization that advocates spiritual, educational and social development of young men, called "transcenders."

"These nine young men and others who came before them will remember your commitment for the rest of their lives," Bryant said.

He highlighted encounters with people throughout his life who made an impact. His first job was shining shoes in Charles A. Frasier Sr.’s barbershop. While attending First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on Rebecca Street, he learned about leadership and finance from the deacon board, as the deacons managed the church’s finances.

"I took the lessons learned at First Calvary and applied them to my professional life and incorporated some of those same lessons into my banks," Bryant said.

He mentioned teachers who challenged him in school, saying they are the ones he remembers the most. Bryant said one teacher convinced him that he could do anything he imagined, and in 10th grade, he dreamed of becoming a banker.

"There’s nothing wrong with having dreams and goals, but you need to have a plan and preparation," he said.

He talked about the importance of literacy and learning to enjoy reading. Bryant addressed the transcenders and said not to watch just one news channel, but a variety to gain different perspectives and then form an opinion. He encouraged the young men to read newspapers and magazines to better understand what is happening in the world.

Before the keynote speech, Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Townley Hedrick gave greetings, and Mitchell Boston, president of the Eleven Black Men of Liberty County, acknowledged those who helped with the banquet and visiting guests.

DeAndre Holt, an alumnus of the Eleven Black Men, shared some of his favorite memories with the organization. In sixth grade, at Snelson-Golden Middle School, a teacher asked if he wanted to join the Eleven Black Men. Holt agreed, but did not realize there was a tryout. He thought he failed, but was accepted. The Eleven Black Men helped him make the decision to attend college.

Nelson Pitts performed spoken word. His poetry focused on the importance of literacy and understanding the hidden meanings in words, numbers and situations.

The transcenders at one point acted as historical Liberty County figures, and Tyriek Holmes sang "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke.

After Bryant’s speech, transcender Desmond Brown received an award for academic excellence, and Justice Dudley received an award for showing consistent improvement. A $500 scholarship check in honor of former director Robert Blue was presented to Octavien Gadson, who will attend Fort Valley State University. Bryant also received an award for his continued dedication to encouraging youth.

Deborah and Ronald Cobb attended the banquet because their son Ron Cobb was part of the first group of transcenders when Bryant was president. Their son is currently in the Air Force, is married with children and graduated from college. Cobb said she is proud of their son.

"Our son was asked to join, and they took them on trips, helped him with financial aid (for college) and got him a computer when he was in college," Cobb said. "(Donald) Lovette was a big influence on him and he still encourages Ron till this day. They are doing a great job. I’m very proud of them and the job they’re doing with the boys."

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