He is much better known among staff and members by his last name than by his first.
“People have been calling me Bryan since school,” says Lenford Bryan, 52, an ICS member who lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “They say I have two first names. I think they can’t remember Lenford!”
Born in St. James Parish and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Bryan immigrated to New York in the 1990s. While on vacation in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1994, he was hit by a stray bullet fired in an altercation that had nothing to do with him. The result was a complete spinal cord injury at C7.
Bryan did most of his rehab at Coler-Goldwater hospital on Roosevelt Island. At first, it was a struggle to regain function, but now, nearly 20 years later, he’s able to push himself without difficulty in a manual chair.
“I was determined to not stay in a wheelchair,” he recalls. “I still feel like someday I’m going to walk.”
A Place to Meet, Talk and Lend Support
A certified jeweler who has worked setting stones in New Jersey and the Diamond District in Manhattan, Bryan first started coming to ICS for the arts and music classes. “I’ve taken everything,” he says. Unable to work any longer as a jeweler for health reasons, he became an ICS member in 2011.
Noticing that there were two women’s groups for members at ICS, one with open enrollment and one by invitation only, Bryan thought ICS men might benefit from having a regular place to meet, talk and lend each other support.
“The guys were feeling left out,” he says. “I thought it was important to have someone to speak for them, to have some way for them to get involved.”
Now 18 regular members of the men’s group meet every other Friday at the Brooklyn member center. “Anybody interested can join,” Bryan says.
Not only the founder of the ICS mens group, Bryan is also the president, but he feels it’s important for each member to feel empowered. “We have offices like secretary that they can be elected to, and we take turns leading the discussions,” he says.
Empowerment through Involvement
The topics of discussion are as varied as the members. They talk about their children, their partners and ex-partners, about marriage, dating, sex and body issues. (“Some want to talk a lot about sex, but I refer them to the experts at the Mt. Sinai sex clinic,” Bryan says.) They talk about how difficult it is to get out of the house and be social.
“I don’t want them to get bored,” Bryan says. “I want them to get interested in the group and, through that, to get interested in other activities at ICS and in the community. I want them to feel involved. If men don’t feel empowered, they don’t come back.”
If you’re interested in joining the ICS mens group, call Bryan at 1.347.446.0764, or call ICS Manager of Social Programming Latricia James at 1.718.907.1622.