MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Three members of the local chapter of Blacks in Government were among 6,500 federal, state, county and city employees who attended the 24th Annual BIG National Training Conference held in Atlanta Aug. 25-30.
"It's all about choices," said Bishop Paul Fortson, Paradise Church of God in Christ during the Interfaith Workshop Service held Aug. 25.
Referencing Deut. 8, Fortson told worshippers that when God has them in the wilderness, He wants to 1) humble them, 2) prove what's in their hearts, and 3) see if they will keep His commandments.
Fortson also shared some of his experiences from his 25-year government career. Although he was an expert in his field, he was overlooked many times for promotions and supervisory positions. But one day God said resign, "Resign."
Fortson said he asked God if He was sure - because of his years of service. God said, "Resign." He resigned but realized that although overlooked, his time as a government employee had not been in vain. While he worked under unfair conditions, numerous people were saved through his efforts.
The conference's workshop week began Aug. 26 with its opening plenary session, officiated by Bobbie A. Bingham Morrow. The session featured many esteemed guests, including greetings from Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, powerful words of inspiration from Lithonia, Ga., Mayor Marcia Glenn, Lithonia, and motivating and encouraging remarks from Desi Williamson, president of Impact! Seminars Unlimited, Inc., who provided the keynote address.
Williamson, who overcame the adversities of poverty, told conference attendees that adjustments were definitely needed to ensure success.
"Sometimes we get off track," Williamson said, "but we simply adjust and keep moving." He offered many inspirational tips, emphasizing the acronym "CDC" choices, decisions and consequences of an individual's actions.
Gerald Reed, national president of Blacks In Government, welcomed attendees to the conference and thanked all for thinking BIG. He said knowledge is power, and that each attendee should receive a lot of knowledge, thereby, gaining enough power to go back to their respective places and make a BIG difference.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, other distinguished panelists, and state and local officials discussed legislative policies that significantly affect Blacks In Government, such as passage of the "NO FEAR Act;" equal employment opportunity issues; privatization/contracting out issues; human resource management issues; pay and benefits; and technology initiatives for government workers.
BIG celebrated its youth in a BIG way. Dr. Doris Sartor, national program chairperson, coordinated an educational summit to motivate and inform the students about their educational future. Nathan Bynum, actor/writer and associate professor at the University of Nevada, told the students to follow their dreams and not to be afraid to simply dream. Student participants of the Oratorical and Information Superhighway Contest were greeted with a fan club anticipating the competition. The Information Superhighway Student Competition and the Oratorical Contest exemplified the talents of students representing BIG's 11 regions.
This year's theme was "Web-Enabling the African American Community," and the students did an outstanding job of expounding on the topic. It was a delight to see our future leaders showcase their gifts of public speaking and developing challenging websites as if they had done so all their lives. BIG is once again proud of the accomplishments of these students as they embark on a piece of success.
Brig. Gen. Remo Butler, U.S. Army, told BIG members to "...accept the fact that, like it or not, life is not fair and the playing field is not level."
Dissecting BIG's theme, "Accept the Challenge, Exceed the Standard through Professional Development," Butler went on to say, "The more education you have the better off you are going to be." He said each person must take responsibility for his or her actions; get more education; be prepared; communicate with each other; and, start networking.
Butler also said BIG's National Training Conference provides a vital source of educational opportunities for government employees. The conference, professional/technical courses, higher educational degrees, and special assignments, are means needed to educate BIG members.
"Civil service is graying, and it's our duty to reach back and pull the young up," Butler said. "We must use tough love and tell them what they need to do." Finally, he warned that an employee's professional side is different from his personal side.
"We must be professional," Butler said, adding that sometimes a person may have to go to work early and stay late. "By exceeding the standard, you increase your value."