Midtown: Community

Wiggins: Back-to-school event celebrates deep roots and community

From left, Ricky Clemmons, Frank Rogers and Patrick Curry volunteered at the 2nd Annual Back 2 School Jam & Book Bag Giveaway at Lions Park on Aug. 9.
From left, Ricky Clemmons, Frank Rogers and Patrick Curry volunteered at the 2nd Annual Back 2 School Jam & Book Bag Giveaway at Lions Park on Aug. 9. COURTESY OF PATRICK CURRY

My intent was to keep this story simple: It’s Back-to-School Eve, and all about town folks are scurrying to give away classroom supplies to any student found. Pencils, folders and paper are stuffed in book bags with care, with hopes good grades soon will be theirs.

That happens every year, so nothing new, right? Nah. Often, there’s more.

I hollered at my childhood friend, Patrick Curry, who spent his Aug. 9 birthday giving back to others.

Curry helped long-time friend and former Enloe football teammate Kevin Bobbitt, host of the 2014 Back 2 School Jam & Book Bag Giveaway at Lions Park, where they’d first met when they were 8.

It was the second annual giveaway by Kemetic Cultural Science & System of Unity, a nonprofit Bobbitt created to address spiritual, mental, economic and physical needs in under-served communities after he spent nine years in federal prison.

Last August, the group gave away about 275 book bags. Last weekend, 500 book bags and as many T-shirts were given away to students in Raleigh North Apartments on Raleigh Boulevard and surrounding communities.

The nonprofit has adopted Raleigh North to provide need-based services and programs, including culture-centered education classes each Saturday, and donations of clothes, furniture and food.

“We understand that the universe gives to us freely, so we give freely in selfless service,” said Bobbitt, who grew up in Raleigh North, a stone’s throw from the Lions Park subdivision Patrick called home. “I want kids and parents to understand, through proper knowledge of ourselves and our community, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish, nothing we can’t do; that there’s so much more to life than living in a low-income, disadvantaged housing community; and to stay excited and inspired and encouraged to do well in school.”

Kemetic Cultural Science & System of Unity was born from Bobbitt’s vision and a business plan he drafted four years before his January 2013 release from prison, where he paid the debt of a convicted felon caught with a firearm.

Bobbit said he wanted to do his part “so others don’t have to go through what I went through and suffer.”

Curry said he was grateful to see Bobbitt make a positive bounce-back from bad choices.

He was humbled, too, to be part of the willing reach-back of another childhood friend – Nate McMillan, a Raleigh North native and associate head coach of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.

McMillan, who is renowned in Midtown as an Enloe and N.C. State standout, bought the 500 book bags and supplies to fill them. He also shared his story of going from Raleigh North to the NBA – and the U.S. Olympics.

Curry said he was also inspired to see so many former “neighborhood kids,” now grown, pitching in everything from pizza and photographs to corporate sponsorship in the very same Lions Park gymnasium where they used to play.

It was all to instill pride and gratitude, a sense of humility and a motivation to succeed.

“This was probably the best birthday I’ve ever had,” Curry said. “It’s because we’re not just giving out book bags, we’re trying to give out education. Giving beats getting, any day.”

Curry continued: “So many of us who grew up in that gym were there, it was surreal. I was looking around … thinking, ‘Wow. We’re standing here doing what we’re doing, so many years later.’ It’s nothing you can fathom as you’re growing up.”

Whether they knew it then, their roots were planted in a neighborhood full of odds. And whether the kids in their shadow today know it now, it’s also a place where lifelong ties extend family, and sturdy roots of success run deep.

To me, that’s not just book bag-giveaway community service. It’s community service that makes sense.

Lori D.R. Wiggins writes about the people and places of Midtown Raleigh. Contact her via email at ldrwigg@gmail.com.