The Annual Family Fishing Day!
( Happening June 24 & 25th 2017 )
2017 Marks Nearly a Decade of Bringing Youth, Families and Community Together in Unity and Peace...
George Johnson, an avid fisherman with a talent for organizing community activities focused on the youth, started fishing when he was about 11 or 12 years old.
“It was one of the ways of keeping us out of trouble over the years as a youngster,” he recalled.
When he became an adult, it was his love for fishing – as well as his love and concern for the youth impacted by violence in the inner city – that led him and his friend, fellow fisherman Sam Smith, to establish Family Fishing Day in the City of Buffalo.
Johnson, the president of the community-based Buffalo United Front, which currently spearheads the event, and Smith, who heads the WNYAnglers Association, decided several years ago to take advantage of the state’sdesignated “Free Fishing Days” and take agroup of 20 or so young men from the communityto the foot of Ferry to fish and to expose them to a different environment.
It was perfect timing,” he said in reference to the establishment of thefree days. “At that time we only had some used fishing rods and were able to purchase only about 10-15 to give to the kids who didn’t have any,” recalled Johnson.
The rest is history.
Family Fishing Day is still going strong, as this year marks nearly a decade of bringing thousands of youth, families and community together in unity and peace.
“After the first year we went from 20 kids and a few rods to attracting thousands last year and giving away 900 fishing rods that were purchased or donated, thanks to sponsors and companies we solicited to give us the things we needed,” said Johnson. Family fishing Day was also eventuallyexpanded from one day to two. And participants have become more diverse thanks to Buffalo’s unique and growing immigrant community.
This year the 9th Annual Family Fishing Day, willtake place June 24 and 25 at Broderick Park from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And like years before, thousands are expected to participate.
“The fishing is just the hook to bring the kids down to have some sort of conversation with them; to offer encouragement, mentoring and to celebrate family and community,” Johnson continued. “We have had members of the police and fire department join us. We have collaborated with the African American Cultural Center and a number of different groups to help with the educational component." He continued, "The F.A.T.H.E.R.S. Group is involved and added their toy gun exchange program; No More Tears organization makes sure all the food is serviced and the Peacemaker volunteers help with the direction of crowd control and mentoring the young man; all lending invaluable contributions to the success of the event.We're very appreciative."
In addition, there is a veryimportant and significant historical aspect of being at Broderick Park noted Johnson. “This park is sacred ground for African Americans,” he said. “ It was the departure point for our ancestors who fled enslavement on the Underground Railroad, to freedom in Canada.”
Everything is free to the community. And because Family Fishing Day is not a funded organization, it relies entirely on contributions and donations from businesses, individuals, organizations and elected officials.
“We realized after the first two years that we were going to need more money," said Johnson, "so we decided to host a Fathers Day Fish Fry Herculean Men Awards Scholarship Banquet to help fund the Fishing Program. We always do it the weekend of the holiday to encourage and recognize those men who are doinggood things in our community.”
This year the annual banquetwill take place on Friday, June 16 from 6-9 p.m. at the Schiller Park Center, 2057 Genesee Street. Tickets are $50. The keynote speaker will be Rev. Mark Blue, President of the Buffalo NAACP.
“When we first started we did it at Mr. Olive Baptist Church with a group of about eight men,” Johnson recalled. “Within three years we had to get a bigger place. This is our 7th year and we’re up to 30 awardees!’
The community is encouraged to get involved by attending the Awards Banquet to support Family Fishing Day or thru donations (monetary or other ways i.e. fishing rods and gear). Gifts should be made to the Buffalo United Front Inc., P.O. Box 1306, Buffalo 14215; or to The Buffalo United Front’sheadquarters: 291 E. Delavan, Buffalo 14208.
(For more information call 716-818-3410.)