Obituary: Kenneth Harold Bridges, June 24, 1949 to October 11, 2002

While his late father was stationed in Germany, Ken was born to Hubert Bridges and Mary Goode Bridges on June 24, 1949.

He grew up in Detroit, MI, where his mother, and sister, Edwina Sutton, still reside. Ken truly loved his Mom and during his many business trips to the Midwest, he always made a special effort to visit with her at a nursing home in Detroit. Ken`s Mom is a victim of Alzheimer’s disease.

Above all, Ken was a family man. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Jocelyn, and six special children: Aja 24, April 22, Justin 20, Joshua 16, Alana 15 and Alyssa 12. Ken wrote a small book in 1993 entitled `Succeeding in the World, Without Being of the World`. In it`s dedication to his loving wife he said `Any doubts that God loved me were forever removed when he allowed me to have you as my wife. What a blessing!`

To his parents, he wrote:

`You gave me direction, encouraged me to have goals, and made sure that I always had a plan. The best way for me to show you my thanks is to duplicate you with my children. I love you.`

Regarding his children, he went on in his dedication to state that:

`God has blessed Jocelyn and me with six children. While they clearly belong to Him, He has placed them with us to nurture and raise in this world. I have long felt the need to share some of the essential life points that God has taught me with our children. Since we never know how long we will be in the world, I felt that the best way to ensure that the children would have a chance to be exposed to these life points would be to commit them to paper. That way, when they are ready, the information will be available to them.`

Ken loved his children with uncommon passion and made it his mission to spend quality time with each of them. To him, each is uniquely gifted and he made it his duty to give each one the special attention that only he, could give.

Although the book was privately published and not widely distributed or read, Ken`s remarkable life story, is now published as an open book to the world as a result of his sudden ascent to ancestor status. Ken`s positive and absolutely infectious life force energies have been, and will continue to be, implanted in each and every person who has been fortunate enough to come in physical contact with him, or who may have heard the passionate sound of his voice in person during hundreds of public appearances, over radio airwaves, or on audio cassette tapes.

Ken attended Central High School, in Detroit, where despite his small physical stature at the time, he became the captain of the football team. For anyone who knows Ken, that honor is an early indication of Ken`s belief that `size does not matter`. After graduation in 1967, Ken attended Hillsdale College located in Hillsdale, MI and he received his undergraduate degree in 1971. Ken then matriculated at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business where he excelled academically. It was at that time that he and Al Wellington formed a friendship that was to become the foundation for the vehicle known as MATAH Network. MATAH Network is a people, a movement, and a business, dedicated to the spiritual, economic and social upliftment of people of African descent.

After receiving his MBA Marketing degree from Wharton in 1973, Ken was hired by Scott Paper Company as an executive in its marketing department. While working at Scott Paper, Ken became an Amway distributor. Ken built an organization that included more that 3,000 distributors from all across the country, most of whom were also people of African descent, and achieved the rank of Diamond Direct Distributor. It was during this time that he met, and married, his soul mate of 25 years, Jocelyn English.

When Ken made the decision to leave Scott Paper Company in 1980, and the lush salary and executive perks befitting his position as a smart young Black executive, to pursue his Amway business on a full time basis, everyone thought that he was literally insane. But Ken, and his wife Jocelyn had a vision. Although he would not have expressed it in these terms at the time, Ken believed that he could not achieve True Freedom working in corporate America. He felt the need to create his own business. Despite his success in the Amway organization, Ken turned his attentions away from that business in 1983 after unsuccessful attempts to get products produced by people of African descent into the Amway channel of distribution.

In 1983, Ken and his friend and business partner, Michael Jones formed one of the first grocery shopping delivery businesses in the nation.

In 1984, Ken and Al Wellington renewed their graduate school friendship and formed a business that many may recall today as P.O.W.E.R. The letters P.O.W.E.R. are an acronym for People Organizing and Working for Economic Rebirth. The company was formed as a direct sales organization with the goal of creating a channel of distribution of goods and services manufactured and produced by people of African descent. The company first enlisted the support of George Johnson, Owner of Johnson Products Company, who agreed to be the first manufacturer of a line of P.O.W.E.R. branded products. Then Minister Louis Farrakhan was approached and agreed to become the national spokesperson. For various reasons that became obvious in late 1985, it became clear to Ken and Al that the time for the creation of such a business had not arrived. However, Ken made a covenant with Al, and others who were involved with the creation of P.O.W.E.R., that they would come together again when the time was right.

During what became a ten year interlude, Ken and Bob Lott formed All America Film & Video, a video production company which served many private clients and which produced a documentary about noted activist and Pennsylvania State Rep. David P. Richardson Jr.

He also became part owner of Correction Connection, Inc., also known as CCI, and served as it`s national marketing manager and head of distributor relations. CCI`s principal product was Dick Gregory`s Bahamian Diet.

In October 1995, ten years after P.O.W.E.R., an event occurred that would bring Ken and Al back together: The Million Man March. As a result of research conducted at the march by Al`s company, the Wellington Group, a national marketing research firm, Ken and Al decided the time was right for the creation of the Black Channel of Distribution that they had envisioned ten years earlier. After working two years to refine the business model, they co-founded MATAH Network in 1997.

From its inception, MATAH Network was designed as a vehicle dedicated to the economic, spiritual and social upliftment of people of African descent. It was his fervent belief that people of African descent are the only ones who can change the terrible circumstances that exist in most of our communities. All of the resources to accomplish this seemingly impossible task already exist within our community, the skills, the knowledge, the creativity, the money.

Ken knew that the key ingredient that prevents people of African descent from taking control over their individual and collective destiny was, and continues to be, lack of knowledge of self. Ken dedicated his life to imparting this knowledge of self into each and every person of African descent within America and across the planet.

What will be Ken`s legacy? No less than a living testament will become manifest in the lives of all MATAH people as we go about uplifting people of African descent economically, socially and spiritually. Ken will be missed, but not forgotten.

Be joyful in this time of grief for the life force of our brother is not extinguished; rather, it has become the spark to ignite action within each of us. His vision was clear. “We, The MATAH are the people who work to uplift our race…” As Ken would also say, “It’s time to get busy!”

Poem: If I should die on my way to freedom.

By James Clingman

If I should die on my way to freedom,

At least I was on my way.

At least I was on the road, pushing

against the winds of change, and

pushing against the grain, making my

way toward freedom.

At least, each morning that God blessed me to awaken and put my feet on the floor, I stood up and stood tall, put one foot in front of the other and began that day once again, on my way to freedom.

At least I was on my way, each day with my Queen Jocelyn and my precious children around me – and each moment – pressing toward a future in which they would finally be able to rest from our long and harrowing journey. I knew there would be no rest for me, ‘cause I was on my way to freedom, and freedom is always an uphill climb.

But, if I should die on my way to freedom, at least I was on my way. Unlike some of the Children of Israel, unlike some on Harriet Tubman’s freedom train, and unlike some of our brothers and sisters today, I was always determined to go forward. I was making my way to freedom, and nothing would turn me around.

At least I was standing, but NEVER standing still.

At least I was walking, and NEVER looking back.

At least I was running, but NEVER running in place.

At least I was striving, but NEVER striving in vain.

If I should die on my way to the sweet light of freedom, at least on my journey the view changed everyday.
At least I met and loved new brothers and sisters along the way.
At least I persevered, pressed on, kept going, despite the daily roadblocks.
At least I trusted God to make a way for me out of no way, and He always did, because He never fails.

If I should die on my way to freedom, there’s just one thing that I ask. Put your arms of love around my Queen and my children and keep going! Fill my space with someone strong and unafraid, someone who can chart new courses, someone who loves and trusts his people enough to continue on to freedom.

If I should die on my way to freedom, whether I am leading or following, pass the word down the line, distribute portions of my essence to my dear brothers and sisters, and tell them to keep going. Tell them I’m watching them, and tell them I love them. Tell them the chain is not broken; it just got stuck for a little while as we were going through a tight space. Tell them what I told them when we had our family talks. “Let’s go get our freedom,” the MATAH rallying cry.

So, if I should die on my way to freedom, don’t linger too long at my grave. Don’t stay too long in your grief. Give those hugs, and give that love; shed those tears, but dry your eyes. Get back on the road to freedom so you will be able to say, “If I should die on my way to freedom, at least I was on my way.”

Dedicated to Brother Ken Bridges,

October 11, 2002

Ken Bridges Day

Ken Bridges Day, June 24th is primarily a day of remembrance to honor our fallen ancestor, MATAH co-founder, author, visionary, hero, Ken Bridges. Remember, Ken was assassinated Friday, 10.11.02, during the Wash., D.C. area sniper attacks. Additionally, it’s a day to honor all our ancestors who understood the importance of developing the Black economy: Madame C.J. Walker, Marcus Garvey, S.B. Fuller, A.G. Gaston, Booker T. Washington, Reginald Lewis, Amos Wilson, etc. All conscious Africans should commit to using Black produced products in their homes by ‘giving and buying’ Black from Black owned businesses to help build our economy and children’s future.