Summit on Black Male Youth In Its Sixth Year: 'They Just Need To See Us'

Mar 20, 2019

For the last two days, hundreds of young black men in Milwaukee were at the center of conversation about how to thrive in society as men of color. It was the sixth annual Summit on Black Male Youth that gave them the platform to do so.

About 700 young black and brown boys filled the Wisconsin Room inside the UWM union Tuesday for day two of the summit.

Alphonso Watkins (left) opens the session with libations -- asking the ancestors to grant blessings on the event and attendees.

The UWM African American Male Initiative organizes the event, and this year’s theme was Black Boys Thriving: Reimagining the Narrative.

Jim Hill, the associate vice chancellor for student affairs at UWM, says he wants the young men to leave the summit knowing they have options in front of them to be successful.

And, he adds, that there is a community behind them that wants them to go far. “For many of them, they don’t have positive men in their lives. And it gives them the opportunity to be exposed to men that care about them. That care about their future, that see value in them, that want them to be successful, want them to change the narrative about who they are, where they’re going and what their future looks like."

Summit sessions ranged from The ABC’s of College Admission to Living in Color, from Overcoming Obstacles to What It Means to Be An African American Male.

I sat it on the latter, where members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. lead a discussion about black manhood.

Clint Myrick (left) and Terrell Freeman lead the What It Means To Be An African American Male session.
Credit Teran Powell

Clint Myrick and Terrell Freeman explain why it was important for them to be part of that conversation.

"They just need to see us, to see positive black men and we just gave them some tools, some things that they can take with them — that you’re smart, you’re strong, be confident, honest," Myrick says.

Freeman adds, “If you think about it, in today’s society and on the news, you don’t really hear to many positive reinforcements when it comes to black people in general. There isn’t too much you see, you kind of have to search for it and it shouldn’t be that way. So, us knowing that hopefully we can just give that to them naturally. You guys are great, smart, intelligent, positive, caring leaders. They need to hear that on a daily basis."

(From left to right) Randell Walls, Joseph Simpson and Jahvon Johnson.

And a couple of the boys told me they’re leaving their first summit with some advice to take back to their friends.

Not being followers is high on the list for sixth and fifth graders, Joseph Simpson and Jahvon Johnson.

"Just do what you like to do. Don’t do what other people do, just do hard work because one day in life you’re going to make it," Simpson says.

As for Johnson, he says, "I would like to tell my friends that it was very inspirational, and you should really follow your dreams. Don’t be a follower, be a leader."

Summit organizers say they hope the young men will take advantage of follow-up workshops throughout the year so they’re aware of the different opportunities they have to be successful. 

Support for Race & Ethnicity reporting is provided by the Dohmen Company.

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