Historic Summit Charts Course To Address Black Male Issues
Upwards of 700 African Americans participated in the international Black Male Achievement Summit Saturday, November 12. Inspired, directed and encouraged by Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement in New York, in partenership with organizations in 26 cities, these summits explored pressing issues of concern to Black men in America and around the globe.
Attracting predominant numbers in Black male planning and implementation, there were also in many gatherings participation to include women and youth. Sample participant locales would list Houston, St. Louis, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Irvington (NJ), Phoenix, White Plains (NY), Philadelphia, Jackson, Detroit, and San Bernardino.
The international link additionally included a real-time corresponding meeting of brothers from the Black Men’s Lekgotia in Tshwane, Botswana South Africa. According to convener Baba Buntu, their sponsoring organization is titled Shabaka – Men of Afrika. A Lekotia, Buntu explains, is a space for Black men to come together and listen to each other, learn from each other and give each other advice.
“Through exercises, conversations and presentations, issues of entrepreneurship, identity, leadership, fatherhood, culture, relationships and self development are explored from a practical Afrikan perspective,” he adds.
Kenneth Braswell of Fathers Incorporated says of the Tshwane participation: “Our work is a global work. And if this isn’t an indication of what God is doing, I don’t know what is.” Father’s Incorporated sponsored the Black Male Achievement Summit in Albany, New York.
All Summits were held on November 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Themes around which respective cities organized their sharing included Economics, Institution Building, Family Membership, Health, History and Culture, Entrepreneurship, Nutrition, Education, Male-Female Relationships, Mentoring, Fatherhood, Incarceration, and Spirituality.
Locally, the Milwaukee Black Male Achievement Summit was held at the Milwaukee Fire Fighters Hall, 7717 West Good Hope Road. Sponsored by the Kingdom Institute for Black Men’s Studies (KIBMS), the theme of the local area gathering was “Institutionalizing Our Prideful Legacy and Historical Genius – The Rescue, Restoration and Cultivation of Culture, Dignity and Sustainability For Our Children, Families, Community and Future.”
The Milwaukee Black Male Achievement Forum (MBMAF) was an outgrowth of this local gathering. The MBMAF is designed to create and execute planning within the arena of cultural, African World historical, educational and publishing format agendas. Initiatives will be cultivated through lectures, scheduled classes, specialty workshops, exhibits, seminars, and one-to-one supportive sharing.
Co-sponsored by the Black Child Development Institute Albany affiliate, the Albany, New York meeting focused on the Imagery of Black Men and Boys, Black Men’s Health, Fatherhood and Mentoring, and Civic Engagements. Their Black Male Summit theme was “Ties’ Never Broken”.
In his summary report, Terry Boykins of the sponsoring group Street Positive cites that the primary issues of note in Los Angeles were Education, Social Mannerisms, Economics, Spiritually, Mental Well Being, and General Health. He reveals that Summit membership were representative of men in the fields of mentoring, gang intervention, education, fatherhood initiatives, law enforcement, probation, civil municipalities, business, legal, medical, financial, media, counseling, work force development and foster care.
Boykins reveals that discussion in Los Angeles “was engaging and productive, yet frank and direct. Emphasis was placed on Black men needing to establish ‘trust’ amongst each other. Additionally, the ‘functionality’ of a Black man was analyzed to better assess strengths and weaknesses for Black boys.”
Louisville, Kentucky’s “Day of Action” brought together brothers under the banner of “Men of Bundini.” The theme of the Summits was imaged by our renowned fighter Muhammad Ali. The phrase “Rumble Young Man Rumble” is highlighted on promotional Summit flyers along with Ali’s fighting stance and is a segment of the script “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Rumble young man, Rumble. Your eyes can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.”
Drew (Bundini) Brown was Ali’s cornerman and assistant trainer throughout the former heavyweight champion’s career. Sources attribute the phrase “Rumble Young Man Rumble” to Bundini. Mayor Greg Fischer opened the Louisville Summit with “Words of Encouragement”.
There was a brief sharing from the 1712 Willie Lynch Letter described on the program as an “Eye Opener Reading” followed with a keynote speech by 2011 Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame Inductee Bob Cunningham.
Themes included in this “Day of Action” were The Effects of Education on Economics, Building Strong Families and Communities, and Incarceration to Restoration.
Sponsored by the Campaign for Black Male Achievement of Open Society Foundations, the idea and energy to implement these planned national sessions were inspired by the work and vision outcome of a retreat at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky this past September.
The Atlanta Summit notes Anthony Witherspoon of Investment Atlanta, Inc. attracted scholars, community activist, youth development advocates and organization leaders to discuss the plight of the African American male with particular emphasis on youth. Morning workshops scheduled the topic Mentoring and Responsible Fatherhood Training for Black Youth. Strengthening
Families/Building Communities and Making Education a Priority for Black Youth highlighted the afternoon engagement.
Action steps list the implementation of an education module containing components of character development, leadership skills development and personal responsibility; designing applications for achieving an enhanced value of self, family and community, single parent training (intervention) to thwart generational poverty and demand more accountability from principles, teachers and students.
Additional Atlanta Summit Action Steps include ensuring in our youth knowledge of their self worth; implementing rites of passage training; implement character education into the school curriculum; become knowledgeable of a child’s/students passion and assist in keeping them focused on what they see themselves becoming in life and helping youth discern what is positive or negative for them personally and socially – i.e., music selection and entertainment icons.
Yango Sawyer phrases the theme “This Is Our Time – Improvement, Achievement and Action” for the Washington, D.C. Black Male Summit. Agenda topics throughout the day’s scheduling included Education and Black Males, Entrepreneurship and Doing for Self, Making a Difference In Our Community, and the Impact of Incarceration on Black Males.
Distinguished poet, playwright, youth worker and sociologist Baba Useni Eugene Perkins during the Chicago Black Male Achievement Summit presented from the standpoint of an elder “Nine Principles of Being a Black Man.”
The Black Star Project Summit sponsor head Phillip Jackson reports that the morning session included the panel discussion topic “Three Major Issues of Black Men and Boys.” Panelist included Dr. Larry Ellis of the Nation of Islam, State Representative Le Shawn K. Ford, and Dr. Sokoni Karanja, director of the Center for New Horizon.
A video of Michelle Alexander’s Wisconsin speech was shown during the lunch break. An associate professor of Law at Ohio State University and a recipient of the 2005 Soros Justice Fellowship of the Open Society Institute, Alexander has lectured nationwide on her 2010 published work, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
The presentation “A History of the Black Men and Boys Movement in Illinois – Where Do We Go from Here?” followed lunch. Students from Chicago South Side’s Urban Prep Academy and Wendell Phillips high schools lead the panel discussion on “Youth and Violence” closing out the afternoon agenda.
Newark Now president and CEO LeVar Young notes that the Newark Summit covered discussions of collaboration between organizations and how such collaboration will allow us to combat many of the issues that we face in our communities.
He further reports that the day’s schedule included area physicians to discuss male health concerns, intergenerational conversations between fathers, sons and young men, and a session for single mothers entitled “Raising Him Alone.”
Black Men United president and founder Willie Hamilton broadcast the Omaha, Nebraska Summit on their 1690 AM radio station. Said one listener, E. Solomon in a thankful email response:
“I listened from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. Quite a substantial and thoughtful dialog. If Omaha’s Black male Summit is an indicator of what occurred in 25 cities today, this has taken organizing (Black men) to a whole new level.”
In his summation, Hamilton reports that the Omaha Summit seated representatives from 15 organizations. Formed in 2003 as a 501c3 to enhance the performance of existing organizations within the Black community, Black Men United operates as a ‘Think Tank” by providing a space where members of various organizations can meet and share their missions, ideals, actions and events with other participating groups.
He says that Black Men United “is committed to help save a generation of our youth by providing existing organizations with a ‘networking vehicle’ where they may share information, resources, ideals and personnel to support their initiatives and to challenge issues within the Black community.”
One such superb program of note under the Black Men United banner is the Omaha Real Men Read. As described by Hamilton: “We bring Black men into the classroom primarily on the elementary levels and read to them. Men from all walks of life – attorneys, firefighters, executives, ministers, restaurant owners, maintenance technicians, elected officials, all spending significant and quality time with our children in the classrooms.”
He adds that many of the children, as is nationally, live in single parent homes with only a mother and when they come to school, most of their teachers are women. “Our children need to see successful Black men interacting with them,” he says.
Pronounced moving forward next step recommendations emanating from Summit participant on a November 18 “Leadership Conference Call” for example recommended the creation of Saturday Academies for Black Males in 2012, participation in National Mentoring Month in January 2012, supporting also in January the work and presentation schedules of Michele Alexander and the corresponding efforts of Washington’s Bro. Yango Sawyer and his Reduction of Incarceration initiatives.
Additional suggestions noted expanding the Real Men Read model to other cities by April 2012, structuring a national event founded by Black male groups to increase awareness, sensitivity and support around Raising Him Alone networks by March 2012, and creating Black male Achievement Summits in 100 cities with 200 to 1,000 Black men participating during February’s 2012 Black History Month.
A December 7, 2011 conference call focused on possible collaboration with Susan Taylor’s National Cares Mentoring Movement. The proposed vision is to create a National Black Male Achievement Mentoring Initiative structured to assist respective city participants to have successful mentoring designs according to Jackson.
This writer was honored for the opportunity to sign-on Milwaukee’s participation in the historic national/international Summit and further inspired in this particular article treatment to both learn and share the range of leadership that Black men are assuming to dutifully address the plethora of challenges facing our men, our youth, families and communities in America and indeed around the globe in our Motherland.
Black boys, African American young males grow into Black men. We have to fix this. We have to rescue and rebuild the Higher Order of our reclaimed unique essence so that our African American male children will have something prideful of their own to grow into and someone of masterful dignity to become.
Returning to Newark’s LaVar Young, who expressed in clear terms both the significance and magnitude of this historic National/International Black Male Achievement Summit:
“The time has come for men of color to stand up and take responsibility for many of the problems we face in our communities. If the problems are going to be addressed, it has to start with us. We can no longer wait for others to offer solutions. The ‘Rumble Young Man Rumble’ campaign will play a key role in addressing the many issues facing us. Collectively, we can accomplish much more than we can independently. I’m proud to be a part of this effort and pray that this work will continue to uplift and inspire our communities.”