Keeping in step with the March Dedicated: Baltimore principal lives the sentiments of historical gathering of black men and sees promise in local Day of Commitment.

June 29, 1996|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

For Andrey Bundley the spirit of the Million Man March lives on in the small things, walking the streets of his old Reservoir Hill neighborhood, paying his respects at a funeral for a young man from the area, and setting an example.

"[The march] motivated me to press on with what I was already doing," says Bundley, 35, one of Baltimore's youngest public school principals.

It also ended his sense of isolation. He knew others were doing what they could in their communities, but there didn't seem to be a collective effort. His outlook changed the day he joined thousands of other black men on the mall in Washington. The march gave him a touchstone, a reference point, a memory of having joined others in a solemn commitment. He hopes to build on that today at the city-sponsored Day of Commitment.

In his everyday life, Bundley lives out a dictum reminiscent of Booker T. Washington: "Cast down your buckets where you are and make a difference." For him, that means staying in touch with his childhood stomping grounds around Whitelock Street and Brookfield Avenue, and making sure to give encouragement and help to his students at Greenspring Middle School.

The phones there are answered with the phrase: "Excellence is not an option. It's required." He has about 1,000 students at Greenspring Middle. Perhaps half are boys. He prays for them. He knows the grim statistics, the hardships and obstacles that can thwart achievement and send a promising life down a dead end path. All he has to do is visit Whitelock Street for a reminder of what can happen.

"I feel a sense of pain for them, not to where I become depressed, because I can't bear the burdens of the whole African-American community on my shoulders, and neither will I try," he says. "I feel, to a certain degree, a sense of sadness that they haven't come into the full realization of who they are and who they can become."

Bundley, who lives in Baltimore County with his wife, Shelia, and 11-month-old son, Dreyan, knows of one sure way to improve the lot of those left behind and the future of his community.

"I always said that in order for the African-American community to come together that African-American men were going to have to take the lead," he says. "The problem is our problem."

That belief led him to Washington last October. He was not troubled that Louis Farrakhan and Benjamin Chavis were behind the Million Man March. They knew what he knew. The black community, and black men in particular, needed help. He remembers being anxious, wondering if the day would be a success or a disaster. It went just the way he wanted.

"I was excited to be over in D.C., to be among African-American men," he says. "You saw brothers hugging."

It was a spiritually uplifting day. Now he wants the leaders to address the black community's economic problems. He has heard the talk about individual efforts.

"But I'm still waiting for the call from the leaders to say, 'Look, this is what we need to do economically,' " he says.

Perhaps he'll get an answer at the Day of Commitment. The event seeks to tap into the momentum generated by the October march. Whatever happens, Bundley knows he will carry on in the spirit of the march.

His intense focus and concern did not come easy. He was an average student growing up. Some years he showed promise, other years there was no spark. His mother, Fannie Lee Bundley, died of cancer when he was 13 years old. For a while, he says, nothing seemed important. His father wasn't around to help. Relatives took him in.

"I lost my mind," he says. "Just lost my mind."

Athletics gave him a way to find himself. He ran track, played halfback on the gridiron and point guard on the basketball court. On the football field, he loved the ball, and on the hardwood he loved dishing out assists. But athletic stardom never came.

Education became his passion. It was another way of handing out assists. He started as a teacher's aide at the Montrose School for troubled juveniles, then progressed to teaching special education at Harlem Park Community School, then to elementary and middle schools in Baltimore and in Prince George's County.

At each step he saw himself helping young people. And at each step he wanted to do more.

"I said, 'Man, I can make a difference on a larger group of kids. So, I decided to become an administrator," says Bundley, who received his doctorate from Penn State.

He is particularly concerned about the needs of urban children. He'll talk to them in a language they can understand, call himself a nerd if that's what it takes to fight the destructive mind set that says it's not cool to be smart. He knows he looks nothing like the gawky, unhip "nerd" of the middle school imagination. His glasses are too cool. He clothes are too fine. But he wants to give students a different image. It is another way of making a change, of letting his life be an example. And he knows he is not alone.

"Now I know that I can be a part of a collective body of individuals who are trying to make a difference," he says.

Pub Date: 6/29/96

'Men of the March'

"Baltimore's Men of the March: A Day of Commitment," will take place today at the Baltimore Arena and nearby Hopkins Plaza from 8: 30 a.m to 6 p.m. Tickets cost $5.

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