When they wed in November 1990, both Kenneth and Faatimah Gamble knew that they wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. However, at the time neither knew exactly how great an impact their union would have not only on each other, but on a community at large. Both from humble beginnings, these Philadelphia natives grew up on opposite sides of the city. Faatimah is from North Philly, and Kenneth from South. Their paths initially crossed as a result of community activism.
Decades prior to this meeting, the world had come to recognize Gamble as the co-creator of a genre of music in the 1970s called “The Sound of Philadelphia.” Through Philadelphia International, Gamble and his songwriting/production partner, Leon Huff, became known as “Gamble and Huff” and literally put Philadelphia on the map as a metropolitan contributor to the recording industry. Today Gamble and Huff’s catalog of music consists of over 3,500 songs and over 175 gold and platinum records. It is said that this Grammy award-winning duo’s music is played approximately every 13.5 minutes around the world.
While Gamble was making music history in his early years, Faatimah attended the Bok Technical School in South Philadelphia, developing friendships with individuals who would later introduce the couple to one another. In 1981, Kenneth and Faatimah met by chance while sitting on a committee to raise funds for a sickle cell anemia program for Children’s Hospital. After marrying in 1990, the two began their mission of restoring South Philadelphia. Today, the once blighted South Philly neighborhood gleams with hope that the Gambles’ Universal Plan has brought in the form of schools, restored homes, businesses and most important: families.
For over 10 years, The Wellness of You Inc. organization has produced workshops, programs and events for underprivileged and medically underserved communities. The “Character Building and Etiquette Programs” for adolescent boys and girls of the Universal Institute Charter School, where both Gambles sit on the board, not only teach the lost art of etiquette, culinary, dining skills, and social protocol; but also educates about topics that concern young adults today, such as proper decision-making, money management, health and fitness, communication and public speaking. To date, over 2,000 students have participated in the program.
“I think it is very important for young people to know how to deal with personal hygiene,” said Kenneth. Gamble. “It's very important for them to know which fork to pick up, or which spoon to use and just table etiquette. In fact, I've learned a lot from that program myself, and I’m almost 70 years old. When you're in the business world, people are watching you all the time and are finding out whether you have been trained to dine correctly, to know how to talk, to know how to handle yourself in a world that is constantly changing.”
Faatimah Gamble is a former model, radio talk show host and restaurateur who shares her husband's values in teaching children as many well-rounded skills as possible. It is through mind, body and spirit integration that she feels people can truly live their best lives.
“We're raising funds to continue our young boys’ and girls’ program, which teaches them style, grace, etiquette, social building and manners — all those wonderful things that are necessary and will allow them to navigate through society,” said Faatimah.
Despite coming from modest beginnings to achieve international success, the Gambles remain humble and determined to do their part in improving the quality of life of those less fortunate. She added, “That is something that I have been attempting to instill in our young men and women for many years, because if they have those necessary tools — that grace, that charm and manners — and if they know who they are, there are no limits to their achievement.”
Kenneth and Faatimah Gamble will host “An Evening of Style and Grace”, a fashion show fundraiser to benefit the “Universal Pearls of Wisdom” and “From Boys to Men” character-building and social etiquette programs. The models will be donning fashions from designer Frank Agostino, Philadelphia retail clothier Boyds and jewelry by Dianne Taxin Beifield. The event takes place at the University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St., on Dec. 5 from 5:30-8 p.m. To learn more about Universal Companies, Pearls of Wisdom or From Boys II Men, visit universalfashionshow.com.