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Summit Held to Bring about Change for Young African American Males

By Titus Falodun | 4/4/2014, 11:08 a.m.
Last week’s summit at Morehouse College was the first in a nationwide four-summit tour focused on imspiring African American male students. Photo by Titus Falodun/TheAV.

ATLANTA – “Only four percent of African American high school seniors are college-ready in a wide range of courses,” Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson told the packed auditorium, filled with impressionable youths. “That ought to shake people up.”

The stage was set for President Barack Obama’s initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, to shed an honest light on the issues facing young black males, as students, experts, and community and business leaders held dialogue at Morehouse College on March 28-29.

A poignant moment during Friday’s sessions was a panel featuring five African American male students from local schools: Thabiti Stephens and Otha Thornton, seniors at Morehouse; Miles Ezeilo, a Grady High School freshman; Keith Slaughter, a sophomore at Westlake High School; and Joshua Young, a student at Atlanta Technical College.

The young men vividly described their constant unprovoked and unwarranted encounters with authority figures, which left them frustrated and feelings worthless. But they each showed how they overcame the negative perceptions that they felt too many people intuitively have of them.

However, Stephens, who has launched his own affordable shoe company, Steps by Stephens, admitted he sometimes brought the judgements on himself.

“I was a class clown in [high] school,” he said. “But I made sure I got all my work done before I got kicked out of class though.”

For every pair of Steps By Stephens shoes purchased, a portion of the proceeds goes towards providing a child in need.

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The “African American Educational Excellence: Addressing the Socio-Cultural Factors Impacting the Academic Achievement and Development of African American Males” summit challenged social stigmas and overlooked facts. Photo by Titus Falodun/TheAV.

The diverse and distinguished speakers and panelists at the summit used the two-day event as an opportunitiy to engage the audience and the nation, as educators from the metro-Atlanta region brought their young boys and men to listen to words of truth and inspiration.

“I brought these young men here today, in order to give them an opportunity to see people that look like them discuss issues that concern them,” Charles Thorton, an educator at Harper-Archer Middle School, told The Atlanta Voice.

Thorton, who teaches science at the school, had five of his students in attendance. For these adolescents, the summit was an outside the classroom experience of what they might not see in mainstream magazines, television and so forth.

With celebrity, sports, and entertainment images overpopulating the airwaves, the aspirations of young black boys are often unreal and limited. That is why Thornton feels it is imperative for African Americans to becomes a close-knit community again, providing male youths the ability to dream with greater vision and variety.

“We need more support from the African American church,” he continued. “We need more men to get out and mentor. Because when invest in our own community by mentoring, we invest in the state and we invest in the United States and the world.”

The message was not just for budding ears, as college-bound teenagers attended the summit as well. Michael Carson, founder and head coach of Georgia Prep Sport Academy, brought his football team.

“We’re hoping to bridge the gap to where these second opportunity kids can access a college education,” Carson told The Atlanta Voice.