Recreation & Library in Jersey City
Joined Forces to Celebrate National Library Week 2014
by Welcoming Sugar Ray Robinson II
A motivational speaker, Sugar Ray II spoke to the boys & girls in the JC Youth Boxing Program
The Jersey City Free Public Library ushered in National Library Week (April 13-19) a little bit early this year – on Thursday, April 10, to be exact.
That’s when the Youth Boxing Program of the Jersey City Department of Recreation joined the Library in hosting a special guest speaker at one of their scheduled boxing sessions – none other than Ray Robinson II, son of the world-renowned prizefighter, Sugar Ray Robinson.
Ray II, a father of five grown children, has been a motivational speaker since he was a child of 10, when drafted by his mother Edna Mae to pinch hit for his father, when Sugar Ray wasn’t able to address a gathering at a local church in Harlem. Over the years, his message has broadened and deepened, on the many ways to stay sharp, and how to value your contributions as a human being, in spite of what life throws in your path. Upon seeing the Jersey City Recreation newsletter on Jersey City Mayor Fulop’s launching of the boxing program for girls and boys, aged eight to 18, Sugar Ray II knew he wanted to talk to them.
The youthful boxers enjoyed a two-hour program, viewing a video from HBO of Sugar Ray Robinson’s best bouts, demonstrating tips in a boxing clinic, and hearing Public Information Officer Michele Dupey speak on National Library Week before introducing her husband, who addressed his young charges – and the very interested adults attending – on life with such an internationally revered prizefighter, giving such personal tidbits as Sugar Ray walking on his hands to increase his balance, timing and strength. Sugar Ray II created a warm, open discussion by encouraging questions early on in his talk.
“The Department of Recreation is pleased to partner with the Jersey City Free Public Library to celebrate National Library Week and sponsor the appearance of Ray Robinson II. We like to encourage our kids toward learning excellence so that they can more easily embrace ways to become healthy, positive and physically fit. These goals along with frequent visits to the local library have self-enriching rewards and benefits that will last them a lifetime. This event and my department’s intention to assist every child in our various sports program to obtain a library card, supports these objectives,” added Jersey City Recreation Director Ryan Strother.
National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use. The 2014 National Library Week theme is Lives change @ your library.
The American Library Association’s Campaign for America’s Libraries (www.ala.org/@yourlibrary) is a public awareness campaign that promotes the value of libraries and librarians. Thousands of libraries of all types – across the country and around the globe – participate. The Campaign is made possible by ALA’s Library Champions.
“We’re pleased to partner with Jersey City Recreation, and welcome Sugar Ray Robinson II with open arms – full of library books!” said Library Director Priscilla Gardner. “Seriously, the Library is happy to welcome the son of such a revered athlete. We need to reach our youth, to keep them reading and expanding their lives in whatever ways possible.”
In 2005, Ray II, along with writer Herb Boyd, authored a book on his father, entitled, Pound for Pound, a biography of Sugar Ray Robinson, which can be found in the Jersey City Free Public Library, at the Main Library, and the Cunningham and Miller branches. The first 50 children in the Jersey City Recreation Youth Boxing Program coming that evening were given tickets when arriving to receive an autographed copy from the quantity of books purchased by the Recreation Department.
Jersey City Recreation encourages development of the mind as well as the body, through use of writing journals, which goes hand-in-hand with the Jersey City Free Public Library’s mission of self-guided lifelong learning through reading. The appearance of the son of boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson, whose personal mission is to encourage personal empowerment in others, sweetens the message to these Jersey City children.
Ray Robinson II has been an independent producer and program developer for many years, having worked with the Reverend Jesse Jackson at the first Black Expo in New York City, in stage production and as co-producer, and in Santa Monica, CA, as exhibits service manager and assistant show manager. He contributed to, and participated in, the original Youth at Risk program, which was brought to the attention of the Points of Light Institute created under President George H.W. Bush, and which received the Points of Lights award. A program innovator, Mr. Robinson conceived and produced the program, Fighter for the Future, with Assistant Deputy Commissioner Sandra Lewis Smith of the NYC Department of Corrections, a program that empowered youthful first-time offenders at Rikers Island in NYC. On May 3, 2012, Ray II was in New York City celebrating the installation of a commemorative street sign in Harlem, honoring his father Sugar Ray, as the champion prizefighter, entrepreneur and entertainer whose Harlem businesses between West 123rd & 124th Streets, along Seventh Avenue (now, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.) thrived from the mid-1940s to early 1960s. Ray Robinson II is the founder of the Robinson Family project, One World, One Race – HUMAN, and currently in the process of establishing a museum in honor of his mother, Edna Mae, an original Cotton Club dancer, and father, Sugar Ray Robinson.
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