HANK STEWART: NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT...TO ENSURE OUR FUTURE ""The children are 20% of our population, but they are a 100% of our future!"--As quoted by Hank Stewart

When your legacy entails, "leading to create leaders" what more can you ask for? Hank Stewart is known for many things...he's an international Poet, Author, Humanitarian, Philanthropist, Activist, Educator (in his own right), and MORE!

I mean, if this man was Jamaican, he'd have "ten job" (in my Jamaican voice, no pun intended). What I am simply saying, is that when you are gifted, you have to make good use of those gifts. You have to plant them in fertile ground so that they will reap a bountiful harvest. So those with multiple talents and missions in life, are only as good as their "work ethics." Hence the "job" metaphor. I have spoken with Hank over the years and each time, his story is the same and consistent with purpose and focus...the youth. His passion and love for prosperity within our future generations are unsurpassed by his drive to "be about it...and NOT just talk about it." His record speaks for itself, so this time, I wanted you to hear it for yourself. The White Linen Affair is more than just a weekend of FUN and FASHION FETTISH! It's a weekend much like my blog titled, "Purposeful Living."

T2T: How many years have you been doing the White Linen Affair? And why do you think people keep returning?

HANK: This is our 16th year doing White Linen. One of the things people enjoy...is good clean fun. You don’t' have to worry about any incidents and I think people enjoy the dress code. Getting dressed up in the different accent colors each year. I believe they enjoy picking out what they will wear and most of all, I think they truly believe in the cause. We do some amazing work around the Metro area in Atlanta. It's like Tom Joyner would say, "It's a party with a purpose." So you come out and enjoy yourself and all year long, those dollars are helping the young people, to be all they can be.

T2T: What is the guiding force behind this prestigious event? Why do you think it's successful each year?

HANK: There's a couple of things. As I said earlier, I think the people believe in the work that we do in the community. We've done a lot for the surrounding communities. We've had over a quarter of a million dollars donated for equipment. We have partnered with the McNair High School and McNair Elementary School. We've done Career Days where we've helped over 1000 youth get permanent part time jobs and we've had over 200 speakers through the years. We partnered with programs through the Obama Administration for "gardening" schools and contributed to Black History Programs, Women's History Programs, and Anti-Bullying Workshops. We try to tell that story so that the people will know what we do with the funding, so the people know that their dollars are hitting the ground and making it into the community. And the other thing, is that we have an amazing Executive Producer and Director, Gwen Mason. Gwen is Co-Founder of the Stewart Foundation and she runs the White Linen Affair. She is a perfectionist. I mean...she makes sure every "i" is dotted and every "t" is crossed. She does it with ease. When people come to our events, I don't really think they understand the amount of work that has gone into it. We start working on the White Linen in September. After we host it in July, we lock the hotel down, we start looking at talent. We are working all year long and Gwen does all of that with the amazing team that we have. We have a lot of volunteers, board members, Stewart Foundation families, and we have over a 150 who will have their hands in things over the weekend.

 T2T: What can we expect to see this year? How is it different from previous years?

HANK: (laughing) This year will be the "best" year. I say that every year, and we work hard to top the year before. But this year is truly the BEST YEAR ever! We have a golf tournament on Friday and it's hosted by Rashan Ali who is a national journalist who you might see on FOX or NFL. We also have Sam Crenshaw who is also a national journalist and those are the host for our golf tournaments and that's gonna be amazing. Once the tournament is over, we will go back to the hotel and the first 100 people that bought tickets, we will have a private VIP reception. They get to listen to Grammy and R & B artist Tony Terry who has a new CD coming out. The 100 people there will get that CD. That's a great way to kick it off.

Then we have a movie screening of "Skinned" in celebration of the late Tommy Ford, a good friend of the foundation and a great friend and brother of mine. This is a film we started three years ago and we want to honor him with this premier. That Friday night, we will have a concert for the ladies hosted by actor Brad James and some amazing artists, "Diamond in the Rough Band," Hadiya, and Sandy Redd out of Chicago, and our headliner is Angie Stone and then we will have an old school party with DJ Lonnie Luv...and that's just Friday. Saturday morning we will have a White Linen Workout. A Youth White Linen, which this is what it's all about and we give out two awards every year to two individuals who have been instrumental on fighting and advocating; on the behalf of children--and put up a courageous fight. We have over about 150 kids who will be at the Youth White Linen and we will have door prizes and gift cards. I know they will have an awesome time. This year their speaker is Attorney Jarrett Adams, he is a young man who was incarcerated at 17 years old for going to a party in Chicago and was accused of rape. He spent 10 years falsely accused and jailed, but after a fellow inmate called "Pops" realized his innocence after looking at his file that Adams gave him, he encouraged Jarrett to be an advocate for himself which led him towards the road of becoming acquitted. He came out at 27. His record was expunged. He didn't have a high school diploma. So he worked hard and got his diploma, went on to get his Associates degree, a Bachelor degree, and finally...his law degree. And now he is with the Wisconsin Innocence Project that helped him. He's going to talk to our kids about how going to a party changed his life. We also have Deidra Dukes who is an anchor and reporter and we've been fortunate enough to have a lot of Civil Rights legends to come and speak at the Youth White Linen and the only one we have not had was Ambassador Andrew Young. We have him this year, to speak to the young people and their parents. We go into the evening with the Red Carpet hosted by actor Carl Payne and some other red carpet guests. We have a fashion show with Lisa Nicole and Dwight Eubanks. On Sunday, we will have Judge Penny Brown-Reynolds with inspiration and Jazz Brunch hosted by Joey Sommerville, performances by Marion Meadows and surprise guest Cicely Mason.

And all of that is $100, the whole weekend and that's including lunch on Sunday. You can't beat it! The difference from previous years, is that...we've maintained the purpose and the one thing we've stepped up is the entertainment. We now have Grammy Award winning artists like Angie Stone, Toni Terry, Norman Brown, and Marion Meadows. These concerts will probably cost you $200 just by themselves and so we were able to get the people all of that and we have church included in that. The talent was different. We also have great supporters and sponsors with Delta Airlines, Waste Management, Hartfield-Jackson, and Little Rock Café, the real estate companies, individuals, and a list of sponsors that helped us to get ticket sales up to support our children. The talent and the honorees helped us to take it to another level.

 T2T: Who will you be honoring this year?

HANK: We will be honoring Roland S. Martin and Judge Glenda Hatchett for their contributions.

T2T: What is your anticipation on the outcome of the White Linen Affair this time that maybe you hadn't considered before?

HANK: My anticipation of the outcome, is that we are allowed to continue to touch the community. Touch the youth and organizations like Women of Gilgal. So, I am anticipating that we will sell out. You have to understand, we are losing our children. We have students not graduating, dropping out of school and not going to college. Our goal is to help them not only finish school, but to motivate them to go to college. The more dollars we raise, the more youth we can help and touch. That's my anticipation, that's my hope, and I am hoping we walk out of there with, more support for our youth. That way we can do more and spread our love, our support in the Metro Atlanta area. We have students who have gone off to college and graduated and are doing well. The foundation, is in our 11th year, and we've touched well over 15,000 students. Families have been touched, seniors have been touched, and we want to continue to do our part.

T2T: What else does the Hank Stewart Foundation have coming up the remaining year?

HANK: Go to www.thestewartfoundation.com and see what we are doing. Gwen, the foundation, and the board have done an extraordinary job. We have things every four months because we cycle out new kids all the time. What you have is...in our first quarter, that's August-October, we work with our children with "finance and health" the entire time. January we work with our Senior citizens, February-April is our educational programs that include Black History Programs, our Career Day, and more. May-July we have anti-bullying campaign, we teach them how to brand themselves, create resumes', and things of that nature. What we have done...is a very good job of capturing the mind, body, and soul of a child. Our year is pretty predictable, but we bring in different people that are in those jobs in each quarter. We are not figuring out what we will be doing next month, we KNOW what we are doing. We don't have to figure out who will be our speaker, we KNOW who our speakers will be because we stick to our focus. That way, when a child exits out from the program they have been educated on health, wellness, motivated, spiritually so, and they have a heart for the people in the community. We believe that's the formula needed to help our children to function productively in society and their purpose in life.

 I tell people all the time, if that weekend is not feasible for you, buy a ticket and bless somebody with that ticket. Your dollars will still make a difference and you will allow someone to enjoy a great weekend on you. If you go to the Stewart Foundation page, you have professional educators who are constantly putting stuff out there for parents to help them prepare for sending their children to school, from elementary to high school, high school to college. FREE OF CHARGE...so parents can be better parents and grandparents can be better grandparents, god-parents, and even extended families. We have to invest in our children because they are our greatest assets.

There is a quote that says, "The children are 20% of our population, but they are a 100% of our future!" If you don't invest in that 20%, don't get mad in what they become. We're here to help our children, we feed them healthy meals, we don't turn them away and we try to find locations where the parking is free. This weekend with a hotel with $92 room rate and FREE PARKING! So you don't have to pay to park for three days. We want people to enjoy themselves and not worry about that and at the end of the day we are touching our children and making a difference.

If you go to our website you can see where your dollars are going. I want to thank the Publisher of Trendsetters to Trendsetters Media Group, Willie and you as a writer for taking your time to tell our story so it can get out there. We are indebted to those people who step in and help us to get the word out there and tell our story in a way that people will see it. We appreciate how the magazine has been there and opened up its pages for us over the past seven years. We could not do what we do without great support and sponsorship of all the people involved, and we THANK YOU!

After talking with Hank, I realized that...we awaken every day with a list and agenda for God to do for us (as if He hadn't already done enough). However, when do we get up with an agenda that caters to WHAT CAN WE DO...for our fellowman? Do we ask God to help us to sharpen our "gifts for good?" Increase our "wisdom for work?" Or my new favorite..."connect our purposes ON purpose?" If there were more Hanks and Gwen combinations...like the Barack and Michelle of our day, then our children will SHIFT the plane and this world will rotate into a new dimension of perfection instead of peril.

If you haven't gotten a ticket...GET ONE! And if you purchased one...YOU just made a difference in the life of a child who will be grateful you did. SEE YOU THERE!

 

 

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