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Benton Harbor alumni inspire hope

BENTON HARBOR, Mich.--

A movie icon returns home.

Friday, legendary actor Ernie Hudson was one of a few former Benton Harbor natives to come back and give back to the community.

“We have to recognize that it’s important for us to maintain,” said Hudson. “And we need each other to do that.”

Hudson was a panelist on the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor’s Coming Home Summit.

Former president of Texas Southern University Johnny Rudley, executive director of Centerforce  Carol Burton, and management program analyst for the U.S. Department of Education Charles Henderson joined him on the panel.

They spent the afternoon inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

“I just think it’s time for us to remind each other that we’re connected and that we love each other,” said Hudson.

Hollywood has been great to Hudson, but there’s nothing like home.

“We need to make our presence known in the community, we need to protect our community,” said Hudson.

These men and women hope to protect the community by extending a hand to the folks who still live there.

“So many people around here, adults, come from the heart and they’re coming from this place of, ‘I’m here to serve and give back,’” said Burton.

Giving back to them meant uplifting the city’s youth during Friday’s intimate meet and greet.

It also meant visiting folks behind bars fighting to change their paths.

The group toured Berrien County Jail and talked to inmates.

After that experience, Burton, a former Champion for Change at the White House, expressed the need to provide opportunities for them once they get out.

“We have to hire former incarcerated folks, they can’t come back home and pay again,” said Burton. “Because without a job, what happens? You have to take care of yourself.”

They hope to see more change in their hometown.

Because they believe if they can make it anyone can.

“It’s time to let kids know that we’re a part of their community and we’re examples of what’s possible,” said Hudson.

While Friday afternoon’s event was closed to the public, everyone is welcome to meet the panelists during an event at noon on Saturday, July 29 at Hull Park.

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