Attendees at the Leader's Network's first annual Black Fathers Standing Up and Making a Difference Award ceremony, which was held June 9. Submitted photo.

Earlier this month, the Leaders Network, a faith-based social advocacy organization, presented eight men in the community with the Black Fathers Standing Up and Making a Difference Award. 

In this time when African American men are being socially emasculated, the Leaders Network acknowledges the fact that there are African American fathers and men who are making major impact within the communities they live and worship in,” according to a statement released by the organization.

“These fathers and men are real African American heroes we can see and touch every day. We want to spread the stories of positive and successful African American men,” said Rev. Cy Fields, pastor of New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. 

According to the organization, the award will become an annual honor, “because it is imperative that the youth generation observe the positive living role models living among us. If anyone is interested in nominating a father/man who is making a difference in the community email your request to Deborah Williams at”

Listed below are short biographies of each awardee, as provided by the Leaders Network:

Jay Billinger, founder and president of Help-N-Hands: Jay says, “Our mission is to simply create smiles for children and families of the community.” Whatever needs to be done, Help-N-Hands is willing to do it; whether it be community cleanup, helping the elderly move, hosting safe parties for youth, or walking children to school. This organization is made up of men and fathers who believe that everybody should be able to smile about their neighborhood.”

Maurise Robinson, Jr.: Robinson, 29, a former 29th Ward aldermanic candidate, was honored for being a responsible, exemplary young father, a community leader and an inspiration to his peers. He was praised for bringing more young people into the political process with his short stinted run for elective office.

Rev Bernard Lilly founder of College Mentoring Experience: Rev. Lilly was honored for his role as a surrogate parent for many within the Austin community, while also being a husband and a father of four children of his own. Lilly has been a life coach, a teacher and a youth and young adult mentor for more than 15 years. He has taken the neighborhood on college tours to many states throughout America.

Macarthur Alexander, owner of Macarthur’s soul food restaurant: Alexander was celebrated for his commitment to employing many of our sons and daughters from the community who may have fallen by the wayside. This restaurant entrepreneur prides himself on giving felons a second chance at life with a job opportunity when the rest of society shuns them.

Larry Williams, owner of Larry Williams State Farm: Williams was honored because of his commitment and support to the many non-profit organizations on the West Side. He has been steady in his support for any organization that builds community and  empowers our youth.

E. Maurice Day, of Dreamz Mentoring and New Kingdom Church: Day works as a mentori for court-involved youth and a facilitator of the evening reporting center. He has worked for the past 15 years helping to create opportunities young men of Austin, he has sponsored block parties and led prayer on the corners. He’s the worship coordinator for his church, a husband and father of three who still lives in the community

Akeem Berry, leader of the Save Our Sons Coalition: Berry is a prime example of redemption and the potential of black men who have risen from street life to public service. His organization seeks to save the lives of young men with positive male role models. We honor his example and his service.

Rev Walter Jones, founder of Fathers Who Care: Rev. Jones works tirelessly, challenging young men to embrace the responsibilities of fatherhood. His organization also guides young people in our community to organize and advocate for social programs and social justice with stakeholders in West Garfield Park.