Meet Gary Bradley, CEF Opportunity Circle Leader

Gary Bradley — CEF-Durham’s Opportunity Circles Leader, Phoenix House Graduate, and Social Activist:

**Many thanks to Gary Bradley for taking the time to share his story**
Written by Stephanie and Zoey from CEF-Durham.  

Gary is a character – he loves to talk and gives great motivational advice. Gary is CEF-Durham’s Opportunity Circles Leader, and he is adamant about making it an open discussion to give everyone the opportunity to bring what they have to the table. As he facilitates the class, Gary never hesitates to bring in his own life experiences to make the concepts more relevant to everyday life. The summer interns discovered that Gary is a never-ending story book!

One Monday before Durham’s Beyù Caffè office hours, Gary shared his story with advocates Stephanie, Zoey, and Jennifer. This is what he shared with us.

From New York to Durham

Gary is a native New Yorker, hailing from Harlem and South Jamaica Queens. About 14 years ago, he visited his American Indian cousins (his father is American Indian) at a reservation in North Carolina, and he dropped by Durham and liked it. He paints it as a place with a much slower pace but still maintains a “city-twang” to it. He moved two years later and has been living in Durham ever since.

Connection to CEF

At the Phoenix House, a recovery home that was managed by Housing for New Hope, Gary recalls how he used to see these kids from Duke University come in every Wednesday through CEF. His first impression towards the advocates was distrustful, as he describes, “why are they coming from Duke to talk to us – why are you all being so nice to us?” He felt confused and needed to know. Eventually, the advocates, especially Will, won his trust, as they showed loyalty through their work with him.

Gary started cooking every time the advocates came to the Phoenix House, and they noticed that he was very good at it. He had a talent for cooking. So, Gary and CEF advocates started applying for restaurant positions. That same skill landed him a job in Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, where he still currently works. It’s hard work, but he loves his job. He tells us how he has a knack for meeting good people- it’s a magic. Along with that, he found another knack – a gift for mentoring. Gary discovered his love for motivational speaking, and feels like his true strength is helping people.

Gary’s Goals

Gary strives to be a counselor, and is considering working for an organization or even starting his own program to mentor others. He wants to use his experience from the Phoenix House to create a similar space. Gary says that CEF has given him the opportunity to strive for equality, by the way he is able to give his “brothers and sisters an opportunity to step up, to get a job, to get resources for their kids.” He calls the Opportunity Circles his baby, as it is dear to his heart to see people get the opportunity to do something for themselves.

CEF appreciates what Gary brings to the CEF community. He is creative, and through his creativity he is able to inspire those around him to achieve their sense of self and their goals.

Gary’s beautiful reflection continues! Click here to read the full article!

Hobbies and Connections

With Others After learning about Gary’s life story. Stephanie, Zoey, and Jennifer decided to steer the conversation towards a lighter topic- Gary’s favorite hobbies and past times. This is what he shared with them: “I like to draw, play b-ball, and build model cars and ships. I draw from scratch. We used to build our own cars as kids, and race them. I didn’t draw anything special, just ideas that popped up in my head. I drew a hand coming out of space, making the world. I drew trees, splitting them up and colored it red, white, blue, orange, with stripes, and I put it on an island on a rock. I was feeling some kind of way, and the colors represented all kinds of people living as one, being part of that tree. I don’t know what made me draw it- some days I just get in the mood to do something. One time I drew a leaf, and I had everyone I knew sign it. All my friends from every borough signed it-someone still has it hanging in their house. I don’t know what it meant. I just did it.”


Gary’s advice for CEF

At the end of our conversation, Gary gave a great word of advice to CEF. He appreciates that CEF is driven by a group of young folks who are trying to help other people find resources. He hopes that CEF can find a way to reach out and get more people under the CEF umbrella, and that means getting the word out a little more. Gary mentions that this could be helpful for the organizations and people CEF reaches out to, and to CEF as well. CEF appreciates what Gary brings to the CEF community. He is creative, and through his creativity he is able to inspire those around him to achieve their sense of self and their goals.




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CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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