“Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.” I think everyone remembers that iconic line from the classic movie, “Boyz N the Hood.”
Well, Miami native Andre Baker knows; he’s showing up and he very much cares about what is going on in his hood.
Memorial Day is when we take time to honor military men and women who have died in service to their country.
For this Memorial Day, Liberty City got a chance to celebrate with one of their own who has pledged his service and vowed not to forget about the hood in which he grew up.
“When you know you’ve been in this position and you come here, and you’ve played on the park…you know the feeling. You know the hunger,” said Chenika Chambers, Dre’s mom. “So, to bring it back, it’s an honor. You always hear people say when I get big, I’m going to come back.”
Liberty City, he’ back and fresh off of organized team activities (OTAs).
DeAndre Baker was selected in the first round by the New York Giants with the 30th overall pick in last month’s NFL Draft. And how did he choose to memorialize this accomplishment?
He invited the whole community to to his inaugural Dre Day on the Green community picnic to kick off the start of his foundation. Free food and drinks, bounce-houses for the kids, games, prizes and live entertainment rounded out the day.
The event was hosted by The Baker Foundation Inc., his namesake, charitable organization geared toward making a difference in the lives of the elderly and the youth of his hometown community.
“Coming out of Liberty City, Miami, growing up and just seeing how rough it is for people less fortunate,” young Baker has made giving back his life’s mission.
At 21 years old, this young man could have been focusing on his next big purchases, yet he is thinking about using his platform to give back and lift up a community, who has given him so much.
“Just to give back – that is the biggest thing for me,” said Dre. “No matter if it is toy drives for Christmas, Thanksgiving and giving to the homeless, back-to-school things … things in the neighborhood that can help a community.” These are the things that Dre wants to do.
Dre’s family– they are not at all surprised by their son’s giving spirit.
“We’ve always been a community family. We’ve always been involved with the community. All these kids around here they know us, and we’ve been doing stuff for the community even before our children were born. So, we try to keep that going and pass it on down to them so they can do the same,” said his dad, Andre Baker.
The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
And this Memorial Day celebration is proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree - it may take its talents to The Big Apple, but it never strays far from the tree.
Mom and dad both laid the foundation early by putting things in their proper order.
“God first, family, then the community,” said papa Dre. Mom chimes in “then track, then football.” Baker is an accomplished two-sport athlete. He was an All-American in both track and football.
Hellion Knight, Dre’s agent and vice president of Operations for Young Money APAA Sports & Entertainment, (a Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter venture) says Dre is a “great kid, a great competitor. One of the best at what he does. He puts a lot into his craft. But giving back – there’s where his heart’s at and that’s who we are as a company. And that’s one thing we promised him. We built it [the company] upon family and giving back, being a centerpiece to the community.”
Andre plans on continuing to be a centerpiece in Liberty City.
He’s been playing football since the age of 4 at Charles Hadley Park and that is why he brought Dre Day to this park.
“I haven’t played here in about 10 to 12 years. Just coming back to this park watching the younger kids play…and remember, I was in their shoes years ago looking up to the older people like the ones in the NFL. Just coming back here brings back memories,” reminisces Dre.
Football commissioner at Liberty City Optimist Club at Charles Hadley Park, Joseph Narcisse calls it “home to fabulousness.” This is where Baker and many others began honing their professional skills. The program boasts a record 17 NFL players in the last 25 years.
Eddie Brown, former head coach at Miami Northwestern Senior High School, former NFL player and father to Oakland Raiders’ Antonio Brown said, “I saw that [Dre] had the potential that no one at the time had pulled out of him. “
Brown knew he had to show Dre what he saw in him. And after Dre got to Georgia Tech, he saw things that Coach Brown taught him and thought – “ah … that’s what coach was talking about.” That was Dre’s light-bulb moment.
He has been touted as a pro-ready player, an instant-impact rookie, a No. 1 corner by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Parents, siblings, friends and coaches knew Dre had the talent to get to the next level and weren’t surprised at all when he did.
“It has been a long time coming. It’s something that he always wanted, and we knew he had the potential to do it. It was just about him putting in the work and positioning himself,” said a proud papa Baker.
Dre has positioned himself as a Giants cornerback, projected to be a starter.
Brown sums it up perfectly: “Football is a way of life. We don’t play football because it’s fun. We play football because that’s going to help us eat. You start the kids out young. And when they start walking, you give them a football and develop them to start liking that. Because they are going to get that attention from you with that particular ball you pulled out and now you throw a book in there and put it all together and you get a kid that we are featuring today, named Dre Baker.”
All in all, I have to say, that Dre Day was a good day.