Breaking Down Stereotypes, Pastor Gaston Leads Youth With A Purpose

Hearst caption: The Rev. Herron Gaston, associate director of admissions and recruitment at Yale Divinity School and senior pastor at Summerfield United Methodist Church in Bridgeport, sitting front, organized Youth with a Purpose, whose members include Kayno Williams, 18, of Bridgeport, standing left, Percy Smith, 19, of New Haven, sitting left, Randene Harris, 17, of New Haven, sitting right, and Thomas James, 19, of New Haven, standing right, and Richard Marquette, center, a New Haven attorney and Yale Divinity School graduate.

From Ed Stannard, Hearst Media:

Gaston, senior pastor of Summerfield United Methodist Church in Bridgeport and associate director of admissions and recruitment at Yale Divinity School, leads the group of more than 35 young people from New Haven and Bridgeport in a program called Youth with a Purpose. The 5-year-old program, which meets three times a week, is sponsored by Gaston’s church and First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven, where the Rev. Boise Kimber is senior pastor.

“He taught me that I shouldn’t let others’ ideas … and their stereotypes determine my future,” Harris said of Gaston. He has helped her in “becoming the woman that I am today,” she said.

“It’s a very great opportunity for us to show Dr. Gaston that we do have potential in the community,” said Thomas James, 19, who lives in New Haven and attends Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport.

“Out here in the street (it) is not a big thing for us. … It’s really tough for the youth to do a lot of things around their community, to play football or play basketball because you never know when things could happen,” he said.

Full story here.



  1. Ohh.. gee. I copied and pasted this article from the New Haven Register/via FB page of City of Bridgeport,CT-Government. I don’t know if I missed this posting on OIB..or whatever. Reverend Gaston visited OIB and it was a spirited conversation as it should have been after the random gunshot murder of 12 yo Clinton Howell on December 18,2018. This shows that Rev. Gaston is involved in the community and trying to make a positive difference. My question/issue was his appointment to the City of Bridgeport Civil Service Commission. What does his work with inner-city youth have anything to so with the Civil Service operation in BPT?

  2. I wish the best for Youth with a Purpose program and Rev. Herron Gaston. I also notice the connection with Rev. Boise Kimber. I also still have questions on Rev. Gaston appointment to the City of Bridgeport Civil Service Commission seeing that he is new to Bridgeport.

    1. Ron,

      Why don’t you ask to see a list of qualified candidates? Maybe you can review their credentials and then get back with me on your findings. Seems that you have issues with Dr. Gaston’s appointment in general. You should be happy that someone of his status is willing to serve his community, regardless if he’s only been in Bridgeport for 5 years. Who cares Ron.

      1. Stephanie Thompson, it seems that you show up on OIB when there is something about race especially when there’s something about Reverend Gaston. Would you please tell us about your meeting with Reverend Gaston? Stephanie Thompson do you know what the duties and responsibility are of the Civil Service Commission and the Civil Service Commissioners? The Bridgeport Civil Service Commission and the Civil Service Commissioners since the 1970’s have sued successfully a number of times because of discrimination, in fact in 1982 it cost the City 5 million dollars plus legal fees for not hiring Black and Hispanics. From the 1970’s until now I’ve never heard of anyone being in Bridgeport for such a very short period of time to be appointed to the Civil Service Commission. Knowing where you came from helps you to know where you are going.

    2. Thank you. While I respect your inquiry as it relates to my appointment to the Civil Service Commission, let me reiterate for public consumption, that any town/city that I have ever lived, I have always had a strong involvement in the community, and have previously served in governmental roles. It is not about the time that one has been domiciled in a particular place, but rather the level of commitment and track record of the individual.

      1. Rev. Gaston, thank you for your reply, I’m glad that you want to serve but what is your involvement with previous government positions and who suggested that you should be on the Civil Service Commission? Discrimination has been a major problem in testing and hiring which comes under the responsibility of the Civil Service Commission but I have not heard or read anywhere where you and the commission has questioned anything, is there a reason?

        1. Mr. Mackey,
          I appreciate your feedback. I have been made aware of some of the challenges, and I understand the nuances of the often frustrating bureaucratic process. I would ask that you please give me a chance to effectively demonstrate my leadership, as I am a measured leader who is capable of excercising my own independent judgement; while always holding the best interest of the citizenry. I am known to ask tough questions and always operate above board. Since being on the commission, I have asked tough questions and will continue to do so.

        2. Mr. Mackey,

          Because I wanted to make a difference in the community, I insisted on being involved. I proactively expressed interest on serving on any board that I could assist in the advancement of the overall community, and I did not shy away from that goal until an appointment happened. This was not a fly by night process.

  3. This right here is great! This is what I am talking about. We need more pastors in the community like Dr. Gaston. Ron, why are you so concerned about when and at what point a person could be involved in the affairs of the City? Is there a time limit on doing good or giving back to the community? Please tell me.

      1. Ron,
        Why don’t you go ahead and answer your own question since you are the only person with “so-called” knowledge of all things Bridgeport. Like I said before, and I will say it again, why are you so worried about somebody else on the board. If you wanted to be appointed to the board just say that, and stop looking to bad mouth other people.

  4. Stephanie Thompson, you didn’t answer anything, perhaps you can quote where I bad mouth someone and who that person is. Stephanie Thompson I asked you would you tell us about your meeting with Rev. Gaston but of course you didn’t.

  5. Rev. Gaston, let’s cut to the chase, you are using your position on the Civil Service Commission as your political launching pad. We have had a number of politicians come to Bridgeport to use Bridgeport as their launching pad, the late Alvin Penn, Charlie Stallworth and recently Dennis Bradley. Rev. Gaston last year in Florida you made it known loud and clear what your political ambitions are but you have said nothing in Bridgeport. You said, in the Lakeland, Florida area newspaper, “Gaston said he has forged a close relationship with the office of Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.” Here is a little more from the same article but while you are using Bridgeport for your own person career what about the issues in Bridgeport concerning civil service, you have made it known where you stand with Mayor Ganim so how can we expect you to do the right thing.

    The Ledger
    By Gary White July 11, 2018

    Gaston has piled up the degrees: bachelor’s in political science and master’s of public administration and political science from Florida A&M University, master of divinity and master of sacred theology from Yale and finally, this year, a doctorate from the Andover Newton Theological School, part of the Yale Divinity School.

  6. Mr. Mackey,

    You don’t know me from a can of paint. I don’t owe you an explanation. However, out of respect for you as a citizen of the community and an elder African American male, I have respect for your concern. I do not feel,however, that your recent comment is reciprocal of that respect that I have shown you. I will pursue the path that God has ordained for my life, and will not be bullied into submission by you or anyone on this online platform. If you are interested in getting to know me, that is a different story. But please do not paint me with a broad brush or attempt to label me when you have not had one conversation with me.

  7. Mr. Mackey,

    I live by the mantra: it is not what a person says but what a person chooses to do. Since being in Bridgeport, I have been engaging the community and doing the necessary work to save the lives of our youth. I just arrived on the commission, and I plan to do the same thing. I do not need to use any community for my own advancement. I am happy doing the work that I am doing, but will not rule out any plans that God has predestined for my life. I am happy doing the work that I have been uniquely called to presently and in this season.

    1. I would like to thank Rev. Gaston for his work in the community especially with his group, Youth With A Purpose. This morning we learned that there was another shooting/killing in BPT. Even worse,accounts say 20+ shots were fired into a car. One occupant of the car was killed;two others injured. But worst of all is that innocent bystanders could have been caught in the fusillade. I would like to thank Ron Mackey for asking tough questions. I would like to,once again,thank Rev. Gaston for coming here on OIB and answering questions and making comments. IMHO,I am not bothered with a recently relocated person becoming involved with politics,one of ways in which society organizes itself. I am disappointed that Rev. Gaston has felt a kinship with Mayor Joe Ganim. I also feel that the talents of Rev. Gaston are being wasted on the Civil Service Commission(the Dunn problem). Maybe,in the future,Rev. Gaston’s voice could be more effective on the Board of Police Commissioners. Thank you to ALL.

  8. Ron, you are an arrogant. what ,you think you are entitled? Who do you think you are? I answered your question. You are using OBI to undermine people. It is sad. Old black men pitting themselves against other black folks. Sad, Ron, sad. All you have done was pick a fight. If I was Dr. Gaston I would not respond to you! You are DISRESPECTFUL.

    1. Stephanie Thompson, does anyone on OIB know you because it seems that there’s isn’t anyone who can say that they know you. When did asking a question about what someone has said becomes DISRESPECTFUL?

      1. People know me everywhere. Kathy from your church knows me from working at DJJ. I grew up in this town. Rev. Streets used to be the pastor of your church when I visited many years ago. I was teenager then. Ron, you sound crazy. Wow. like everybody from OIB knows everybody. Clearly, you don’t know half of the people you be writing about.

        1. Stephanie Thompson, I don’t a lot of people on OIB but there are people who know somebody else who know me, there all types of connections from work, organizations, sports, church, social events, public meetings, restaurants, people know people but nobody knows Stephanie Thompson until something about race comes up with my name in it or if there’s something about Rev. Gaston then you come out.

  9. Rev. Gaston, you said, “I will pursue the path that God has ordained for my life, and will not be bullied into submission by you or anyone on this online platform.” Bullied, I only asked you a question base on your own interview. Now are you replying back to me as a politician or as a pastor?

    Rev. Gaston, in your closing: An Open Letter To President Barack H. Obama
    01/11/2017 09:43 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2017

    “It is because of you that I, too, one-day hope to run for the highest office in this land. Because like you, I believe in a more “inclusive” America and the “unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose and transformation;” instead of fear and trepidation.” Well, I’m talking to you about politics of purpose.

  10. Mr. Mackey,

    I am responding back to you in my official capacity as a pastor residing in this community. I appreciate you doing your research on my public writings. I stand behind every word, and I have not walked back any of my words. As I said before, I will pursue the paths that God has for me. I am happy with the work that I am doing, and love my congregation, and love to service the needs of the community.

    1. Rev. Gaston, thank you for your reply. Discrimination has been a major problem in testing and hiring which comes under the responsibility of the Civil Service Commission so let me ask you this question, the Bridgeport Fire Department has NOT HIRED any women to be firefighters in over 11 years but over cities like Hartford and New Haven have no problem in hiring women and the Bridgeport Police Department has no problem in hiring women so is the problem with the women or with the test? The Civil Service Commission approves testing and hiring.

      1. Mr. Mackey,

        These are all great questions and raises a myriad of necessary questions, and demands an honest response. I can assure you that I have raised these questions. I plan to continue to do so. I am now heading into, what I believe, is my third meeting since being appointed to the board. I think it is important that the workforce reflects such diversity. And I am a proponent of inclusivity.

  11. Let me jump in here. Let me jump in. This is getting good. Ron, what would you like him to do? Please tell me. You want him to be a nobody? You want him to resign? You want him to hide under a rock? You want him to get out of dodge? You want him to go back to FL? You want him to stick to his day job? You don’t want him to grow as a human? What in the hell do you want, Ron? Stop fighting him behind the keys and come from behind the keys and meet him. Ron how many times I offered to meet you and Frank for Breakfast. I told you all where to find me M, W, Th mornings. I have yet to see you. I only saw you once at Bennett’s church and you were insignficant then.

    1. Stephanie Thompson, please don’t jump in but you could tell us all about your meeting. By the way, you didn’t see me at event because I wasn’t there.

  12. Ms. Thompson,

    I do not need you to defend me. I do not want to wage this into an argument, but rather civil a dialogue. Moreover, I will not respond to any further comments in this fashion— but to say that I do not apologize or shrink from the tasks set before me.


    Rev. Gaston

  13. Mr. Mackey,

    I had a phone conversation with Ms. Thompson once. We had a scheduling conflict so I was unable to meet her in person. I heard from a pastor in Norwalk that he is familiar with her, and seems to know one of her children. I know that a young man that I mentor seems to know her from from Achievement First.

  14. Thank you Frank for your contribution. I would likely agree with you. It truly pains my heart to see us lose our young people to the streets. We have to collectively do something about it. We cannot become desensitized to the problem. But with these seemingly weekly occurrences, it is easy to become nostalgic. I know full well the implications of violence only leads towards destruction. What more could we do to save our youth?

  15. Mr. Gaston, Reverand , Herron,

    As a resident and taxpayer in the city of Bridgeport , I want to thank you for wanting to serve the city the city. It is really none of my business what your modus operandi is. I am grateful when people of distinction care to give their time. I am hopeful that your goal is to serve all constituents. Just because you are a successful and influential man of color, it should not be your cross to bear to address only Afro-centric issues to satisfy Ron Mackey . I am impressed that you addressed some of his concerns. I appreciate the time that you are giving freely and all that you are accomplishing as a distinguished man of the cloth, a mentor to youth and a servant to our city.

    Ron Mackey will not be satisfied until you openly endorse Charlie Stallworth as the first African American Mayor in Bridgeport. For the record, I totally respect Charles Stallworth and know he has a huge following, But I am supporting Joe Ganim .
    Back to you sir, Thank you for your time. We have too many people that have lived in this city for a lifetime and have done nothing. Good Luck Reverand Gaston.

    1. Dear Steven,

      Thank you for your note. I appreciate your perspective. I also appreciate your words of encouragement. I still believe that public service is the highest calling one can accept, and being publicly engaged looks differently for everyone. Lest I think it’s important that collectively we do our part to move our communities forward. As a member of this community and one who resides in this city, I have an investment in bringing my knowledge, skills, and abilities to bear on the work that is before me. My congregation is an activist congregation and we believe unequivocally that ministry does not happen strictly behind the four walls, but that we must be Christ hands and feet in the actual community. And that is precisely the ethos of my theological orientation.

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