Beyond the marches and cameras, this writer and more than a dozen Black men, of diverse professional backgrounds, including media, financial services, legal, IT, health care and entrepreneurship, all sat in a lower Eastside Detroit Community College classroom, with nearly 35 young black men, ranging from 14 to 19, having the kind of male-to-male dialogue that is probably more common these days than in the past. This break-out session, part of the 18th Annual and week-long Money Matters Camp is hosted by Ms. Gail Perry-Mason, a Financial Advisor with Oppenheimer Investments, and was the kind of interaction often seen in structured Male Mentoring workshops, seminars and after-school programs. Unscripted, the topics of Driving while Black, Looking like a Prospect versus a Suspect, Setting and Achieving Personal & Professional Goals, the Importance of Education and the list, some titles a little too intense for this article, were analyzed, discussed and given optional solutions.
The impact of the Trayvon Martin case was the elephant in the room and became a source from which direct, open and honest communication surfaced. The strongest emotions emerged while discussing the conspiracy to destroy African-American men and Young Black Men specifically, when it was revealed that since the night Trayvon was killed on February 26, 2012, there have been 126 murders of unarmed and young Black men across the nation by Law Enforcement Officers and now community vigilantes. Alan Blueford (18) of Oakland, California, Darius Simmons (13) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Noel Polanco (22) of Corona, New York are some of the names who died innocently.
What was apparent on this hot summer day, were the interesting perspectives and commentary from participants. “I believe racism is not just here,” said one young man, “but the process, the agenda, has developed”. “My grandfather always told me that in order to accomplish your Dreams, you must first Wake Up”, said another. As part of the conversation, emerging solutions for this segment of the camp included; focusing in on education & career development – immediately, monitoring the way that you spend your time and who you spend it with, becoming the leader you want to see, seeking and maintaining healthy relationships and to always believe in your ability to succeed. The dialogue was powerful, but the exchange of ideas, services and products was critical. Panelists exchanged cards with participants for follow-up meetings, one Attorney agreed to provide free legal setup for any of the men planning to start a business. I was happy to sign and give away copies of my books, along with insightful advice on self-publishing, to several aspiring authors.
After only 90 minutes, this kind of interaction personified the passing of a baton of knowledge to the next generation of men, with the intent of providing them with conscious insight, a better and safer opportunity for success. This year’s event was held at Wayne County Community College District’s Eastside Campus and sponsored by Bank of America, State Farm, NASP Ariel Investments and DTE Foundation.
Edward Foxworth III is an Entrepreneur, National Speaker and Author of several books including The Six Routines of Self-Discovery, which is available at www.edwardfoxworth.com or wherever books are sold.