04/22/2019: Post Conference Summary Report
My Brother’s Keeper Durham and North Carolina Central University Male Achievement Center (M.A.C) kicked off its inaugural “Boys and Young Men of Color Conference” on April 13th, 2019, on the campus of North Carolina Central University.
The theme for the conference was “A Re-Dedication to Black Male Achievement,” which set the tone for the entire conference; beginning with a warm welcome from Durham County Commissioner Brenda Howerton as she got the morning started with a great message. Following the welcoming and group affirmations, mothers, mentors, stakeholders and young men split up and went to sessions that impacted them on a personal and professional level. There were educational, mentoring, mental health, character education, law enforcement and numerous other discussions that made us forget about the torrential downpour in the Bull City. Based on the selected speakers for the morning breakout sessions, the rooms were filled leaving many wanting to go to the same speakers following lunch. We honestly didn’t anticipate such moving stories from the younger males, but the facilitation in the rooms left nothing but the space and opportunity to share meaningful stories and open the floor up to true dialogue.
Following the morning sessions, we took a lunch break where we invited all 370+ guests to the W. G. Pearson cafeteria for brunch. Although we were on a very strict time schedule, we knew that this time would be the most meaningful; as I had a chance to go around to all the tables and sit with moms and mentors – all who participated in the panels, discussions and feedback from the conference during the morning.
Following lunch, we had a panel to discuss collective impact that went as far as setting up a conference call and an email list serve that would hold everyone accountable with their individual expertise and how that would be utilized moving forward.
The keynote speaker was John P. Comer, Founder and CEO, Architect of Justice. John, who summarized the community organizing aspect of his role during his days in Durham, Baltimore (during the death of Freddie Gray) and the similarities to then-Senator Barack Obama in comparison to how youth are utilizing social media to mobilize change. He also discussed the changes that would be required for our youth to serve as allies for one another and the changes that must happen to continue to build the legacy of leaders before them. As expected, this discussion received large reviews from parents, college students and young scholars as they have been following various movements and have witnessed changes happen from just a simple “Tweet.”
This discussion was followed by a quick closing and an opportunity to join a few at the NCCU Maroon & Gray Spring Football Game that was happening minutes after the conference was adjourned.
We will be hosting a follow up conference call on May 1 from 6:30 -7:30 p.m. where we can collectively debrief the conference and to solidify next steps. We hope you will be one of the many to join us. The conference call number is (515) 604-9725. Access code: 441013.
Edmund P. Lewis, Jr., MSW