Dallas, Texas-based Bishop Omar Jahwar, founder and CEO of Urban Specialists, brought his 18-stop Course
Con conversation series to the Gathering Spot Tuesday in partnership with a number of local entities, including Cortez Bryant’s Blueprint Group and restaurateur Will Platt.
An audience of approximately 200 people attended the three-panel summit, which featured a variety of celebrities, government officials and community activists who discussed a variety of topics, including how to support entrepreneurship, how to eradicate violence and how to adequately build stronger communities.
CourseCon, conceived by Jahwar out of a larger conversation hosted this February in Dallas called Course Correction Conversation, is a national conversation designed to discuss ways of countering violence and empowering the African-American communities in various cities throughout the country.
Atlanta was the third stop of the tour, which has already seen stops in Oakland and Baton Rouge.
Featured panelists for CourseCon Atlanta included:
• Bryant, Co-CEO of The Blueprint Group and COO of Young Money Entertainment and best known for managing the careers of game-changing artists Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj, to name a few;
• Platt, investor/owner of Rosie’s and Restaurant 10, also a native resident of the Atlanta westside community and has a vision in progress to revitalize that community;
• Dee-1, hip-hop music artist and motivational speaker;
• Phillana Williams, director of marketing and strategy with The City of Atlanta and prominent music executive;
• Twanna Williams, vice president of brand, content and strategic Initiatives with Atlanta Beltline;
• Brandon Pankey, vice president of business development and operations for Live Nation Urban;
• Bem Joiner, creative culture curator and community engagement manager for the Center for Civic Innovation;
• Isaac Hayes III, son of soul icon Isaac Hayes, hit songwriter, producer and music scorer for multiple television networks and movies, social and political activist, and a pillar of Atlanta’s African American community;
• Andrew L. Momon Jr., executive director emeritus of Urban Specialists Atlanta and founder of Momon Leadership Consulting;
• Kendra Momon P.D., full professor of politics, chair of the division of politics, history, and international studies, and director of the Rich Foundation Urban Leadership Program;
• Antong “Bruse Wayne” Lucky, director of national invasion with Urban Specialists and former leader of the infamous Bloods gang in Dallas, Texas; and
• Nina Packer, the chief strategic officer for The Blueprint Group, served as the event’s organizer and convener of the conversation locally.
Special guests included Mayor of East Point Deana Holiday Ingraham and various clergymen and other community leaders.
During the first panel, Bryant discussed the role that education played in opening doors for him and some of his fellow students.
“[In school] we had doctors, engineers, and architects coming and speaking to us. I saw people that looked like me,” he said. “It’s the same school I met Lil Wayne at. That school [Eleanor McMain Secondary School, New Orleans] taught us vision. It allowed me to get out of the streets of New Orleans, and allowed me to speak big, think bigger, and know that I could do whatever I wanted to do.”
Pankey discussed how he has recognized the importance of using assets within the community to empower others.
“I worked on this music business program called DASH – Destined to Achieve Successful Heights. I developed a curriculum that focused on the business of music, mass media and sports,” he said. “There was one young brother who had dropped out [of high school]. He heard about the after-school program, and six months later, he got a GED. He’s an engineer now.”
As founder and CEO of Urban Specialists, Jahwar and his team have committed themselves to revitalize urban communities nationwide and ending senseless violence.
Urban Specialists is a non-profit organization led by Jahwar that aims to revitalize urban communities by transforming values, attitudes, morals, ideas and behaviors. The organization was created in 1998 and is headquartered in Dallas.
Jahwar adopted 16 streets in one of the most crime-ridden, impoverished neighborhoods in Dallas. His leadership efforts have resulted in a 58 percent decrease in crime in that area in just one year.
Urban Specialists also adopted a high school in the community where officials have seen a 72 percent reduction in violent incidents in just one school year.
“The culture of violence needs an opponent, and that opponent has to come from individuals who understand the terrain,” Jahwar said. “So, we train individuals and deputize them, so we can recapture some of what we lost. And it works. In schools, we’ve had a 72 percent reduction in violence, and in neighborhoods, a 58 percent reduction.
Bryant said he believes that the event was extremely beneficial in supplying the energy needed to address the community’s issues.
“There are so many people that are willing to help in this city,” he said. “It’s inspiring to know that we have a village of people with a common cause; it’s going to make it easier for us to make a difference.”