Antwone Quenton Fisher Captivates Gala Audience with his Life Story
It could have been a short story. When Antwone Quenton Fisher found himself dropped off outside the Cleveland YMCA two days after high school graduation, emancipated without notice after spending his entire life in the foster care system, the “pimps and hustlers” were waiting for him and those like him.
“They knew every year, in June, they was going to get a new group of foster children who were going to get released by the state: and this was the new crop,” he said.
Fisher told his story to a spellbound audience at General Synod’s Gala, “A Place Like This,” raising funds for local literacy programs in Ohio. His was not a short story. Desperate to escape homelessness, he joined the U.S. Navy. As he sailed the world, a Navy psychiatrist helped him with the emotional issues imposed by years of abuse, and also diagnosed his dyslexia.
“I started traveling, not just in the Navy on ships,” Fisher said, “but in the books I was reading.”
The new love of reading led to a new life for Fisher after he left the Navy. While employed as a security officer at Sony Pictures, he took a screenwriting course, which developed into the screenplay for Antwone Fisher. The Oscar-winning star Denzel Washington acted and directed the critically acclaimed film, and Fisher himself went on to a very successful career as a screenwriter, poet, author, and director.
For millions of other Americans, the inability to read imprisons lives: literally. “Illiteracy is one of the principal conduits of the cradle to prison, cradle to poverty pipeline,” said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister for Local Church Ministries. “It is pretty much the Keystone XL pipeline.”
Some states use illiteracy rates to calculate how many prison beds they will need, observed the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, one of the facts that inspired the UCC’s Reading Changes Lives Initiative, which has brought so many packets of pens, pencils, paper, and other school supplies to Cleveland. 850 backpacks have been filled so far toward the Synod goal of 1,000, she said, and delegates have brought enough material to fill 1,500 more.
The gala itself launches an Ohio Conference fund to provide grants for congregation-based literacy programs. Wider Church Ministry Executive Minister the Rev. James Moos invited attendees to support the overseas component of Reading Changes Lives as well, by putting cash in boxes on the table. “If you don’t happen to have a picture of Ben [Franklin] in your wallet,” he joked, “a check will do just fine.”
Fisher closed the event by reading his poem, “Who will cry for the little boy?”, which ends with these words:
Who will cry for the little boy? A good boy he tried to be.
Who will cry for the little boy, who cries inside of me?
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