“You have to take responsibility for you, for creating the path to the future you desire. No one can do that for you. The choices you make, determine your fate.”
– Bernal Elery Smith II
October 22 will mark one year since my father, Bernal Elery Smith II, passed away unexpectedly – at age 45 – due to cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
Amid the sadness our family feels as that anniversary approaches, my mom, Towanda Peete-Smith, in collaboration with The 100 Black Men of Memphis, has put together a commemorative weekend, with a focus on men’s health and student scholarship.
Bernal Elery Smith II Commemorative Weekend is set for Oct. 13-14. Three powerful events are designed to honor the life and legacy of The New Tri-State Defender’s late publisher, who was a creative businessman and a committed civic leader.
Saturday, Oct. 13
In association with Maleka Williams McCray, and along with Dr. Derrick D. Payne, Men of Memphis United and the 100 Black Men of Memphis, Peete-Smith will host the Bernal E. Smith, II & Michael Mason Heart Healthy Men’s Symposium from 8 a.m. to noon at Mr. Smith’s alma mater, Rhodes College.
The symposium will be held in the McCallum Ballroom of the Bryan Campus Life Center. The goal is to channel information and knowledge people need to live healthier and longer lives.
“The bottom line is God had a plan for him and his life. He fulfilled that plan. Now, what we are trying to do is educate people,” said Peete-Smith.
The symposium will emphasize key men’s health topics, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension and sexual health. Leading medical experts will discuss the importance of cardiovascular care, along with the facts, causes, risk factors and complications associated with hypertension.
There will be an array of medical professionals to do health screenings, wellness vendors to offer education and literature on the need to be more proactive in going for checkups and follow-ups, and a panel of men discussing living “Heart Healthy.”
The Bernal E. Smith II Honorary Street Naming Ceremony will follow the symposium. A segment of Beale Street Alley between B.B. King Blvd. and 4th St. (north and adjacent to FedExForum) will bear the name Bernal E. Smith II Way. The ceremony, which begins at 1 p.m., will conclude with a Community Block Party.
Sunday, Oct. 14
The Bernal E. Smith II Memorial Scholarship VIP Reception will honor high school students who excel academically while giving back to the community. There will be a special emphasis on students attending Memphis Academy of Health Sciences High School (where Mr. Smith was a founding member) and Whitehaven High School (his alma mater).
The VIP-only salute to the applicants, finalists, donors and supporters of the scholarship will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Rhodes College in Spence Wilson Room of Briggs Hall.
“Bernal was a good man who loved his hometown and the people in it. He enjoyed helping others, investing in our youth, and hosting events that enlightened and empowered others. He was truly a servant leader and an advocate for the people of Memphis,” said Peete-Smith.
“Many of his passionate pursuits were left unfinished. I, along with our three children, and other dedicated family and friends are committed to continuing Bernal’s work. I hope that everyone whose life was touched by my husband will attend one of more of the events during the weekend. Come help us celebrate Bernal.”
(For more information about Bernal Elery Smith II Commemorative Weekend, email firstname.lastname@example.org; call 662-382-9972.)