Los Angeles Southwest College’s student equity, Alumni Association and Student Services hosted a conference last weekend, as a part of their Black History month programming focused on mentoring and developing skills in the African American and Latin American young male. Entitled “Strategies for Development of the African American Manchild,” the 18th annual day-long conference was created by a group of colleagues to aide in the development of a new paradigm that addressed every aspect of male empowerment. Over 500 eager students, faculty and parents participated in powerful workshops, listened to keynote speakers and engaged in activities that encouraged male sharing and planning. “This event was created to give young Black and Latino men the tools needed to use, in order to move forward in their education and in their careers,” says conference Chairman, Dr. Sidney Cosby. “This year, LASC is celebrating its 50th year and we believe we’re still the best hidden secret in the area. We take care of our community and we hold our own. We understand that education is liberating and empowering. The goal of the conference has always been about empowering these young men from their current status into their future.”
Individual workshops geared toward providing strategies for economic, educational, social and occupational advancement planning covered the spectrum from personal challenges to their public personas; however, the single focus was based on the unwavering importance of education. “Education is liberation. God, family and education can last forever,” believes workshop leader and local district director at LAUSD, Dr. Reginald Sample who conducted a session on “Avoiding Pitfalls: Leading African American and Latino Males toward school. “Being able to read and write allows you to envision your future. Knowing math and science is a universal trait. It will take you around the world and back. I didn’t have a lot of Black and Latino role models growing up in my neighborhood. Our role models were gangbangers and drug dealers; so being an educated Black male role model is important to me because so many of our men are just lost.”
The conference featured an uplifting morning speech from Rev. Najuma Smith Pollard, Program Manager of the University of Southern California’s Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement and founder/pastor of the Word of Encouragement Church of LA, who enthusiastically spoke about finding your own personal purpose. “There is so much power in purpose and most importantly collective purpose,” says Rev. Pollard. “I can have a vision but I can’t deny that vision of others or I can’t see my full vision without seeing the full vision of those around me or in my community. We simply can’t do this alone and when strong, empowered men come to share their knowledge and their experiences with you, it serves the larger purpose to secure the steady growth and prosperity of our future.”
The groups broke off into individual sessions that ranged from topics including: “Motivating Middle and High School Students through Pre-College and Beyond,” and “An Examination of Black Theology and Hip-Hop Theology in the Development of the African American Man-child,” or “His Emotions Matter: Challenging Societal Norms & Stereotypes, Raising Emotionally Balanced African American men.”
One very powerful workshop “Education is Liberation: Ball in Life or Fall in life – It’s Game Time” was conducted by three men who labeled themselves, coaches and parents: Bert Cole, Paul Holt and Vince Samuels, each gave three things that they live by as Black men. “Mine would be G-o-d, F-a-m-i-l-y and E-d-u-c-a-t-i-o-n,” writes Cole. “I grew up in the 80s with drugs and gangs and by 48 had spent half of my life incarcerated. So, I understand how important it is to have strong men in your life; those coaches and parents.”
A difference of mind was debated when an elder attendee believed that the younger generation doesn’t know or want to know their history. Instructor Paul Holt believed that yes, history was important but ‘change is prevalent.’ “I thought that athletics would take the place of education but I became the first generation in my family to get his masters,” says Holt. “We have to get brothers like us to make a difference because all of my opportunities came from my education. They [are] getting beat to sleep.”
The conference ended with a closing speech from Amen Rahh, Pressor Emeritus of Africana Studies at CSU Long Beach who thanked all of the participants and invited everyone to stay engaged.