Jeffrey Jones went to teach, but he learned just how much young Black men matter, and how much they care.
“When the future is ready the youth will appear.”
I know that that’s a twist from the popular Theosophy quote, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” I couldn’t help but think of it that way, especially after attending the 2015 Black Male Development Symposium (BMDS) conference that was held on the campus of Arcadia University in Glenside, PA.
This was the ninth time that this annual event was held, and once again I had the privilege of being one of the workshop presenters. My workshop, “How To Be A Dynamic Leader In Setting With Diverse Cultures”, was an energetic and engaging presentation that taught the young black boys who were in attendance the importance of developing their leadership skills and having an understanding and appreciation for the diverse culture that makes up or workforce and society in order to achieve success in life. While I would like to believe I imparted some great stuff to them I found that during my session, and even during the whole BMDS event, I learned a lot more about our young black boys.
The theme for BMDS conference this year was “Reaching Out For The Brothers”, and as the BMe Community Manager in Philadelphia, that is something that I’m accustomed to doing. BMe is an organization that helps to build caring communities based on the inspiring stories and work of Black men. We are in five major cities: Akron, Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. BMe uplifts the true narrative about black men, which is that we’re valuable assets to society. For more information about BMe visit our website www.BMeCommunity.org and you’ll get an understanding that “Reaching Out For The Brothers” is what BMe does best.
To be honest, I don’t know the official numbers of all the attendees for the BMDS conference, but I do know that Arcadia’s campus was packed with cars and buses from all across the East Coast. However, not only did black men and boys turn up, so too did people from all races, and ethnic backgrounds. They turned up in numbers that were truly remarkable. They were there because they wanted to “Reach Out For The Brothers” and learn firsthand about how to help in the work of overcoming and handling the issues that challenge the Black community and in particular black men and boys today.
Most importantly the people were there because they wanted to be around an environment of positive Black men. They wanted to be connected to and be a part of a movement with an atmosphere built by successful Black men who were sharing their inspiring stories and reaching out to help others. And what I learned while teaching my workshop was truly amazing.
I learned that despite what we may read, hear, or see in mainstream media, our young Black boys do care. That wasn’t a surprise, but it was a delight to see it in action. I learned that they came out to the BMDS conference because they cared. They cared with a level of passion that goes beyond wanting to be the next LeBron James or Kevin Durrant. They cared more than just wanting to be the next Jay Z or Lil Wayne. They cared because they wanted to know “how do I transition to manhood when all I see is negative images of Black men in mainstream media?” They cared because they wanted to know not just, “how do I get to college?” but “how do I navigate through a collegiate experience in order to graduate?” They cared because climate change means more to them then just watching the weather on Channel 6 and more then just using paper instead of plastic. They cared because as one young man in my session said, “This is life and it’s real.”
I learned that our young black boys do understand life and a bigger picture of the world. Too many people have played them short just because at times they do not fit the stereotypical image or idea of what a socially conscious person is supposed to look like. I learned that our young Black boys understand everything from ESPN to CNN to the UN. They understand because they want to be part of the solution and not seen as the problem.
Say what you want, no don’t say what you want, because much too often we let people get away with saying what they want and that has created labels that have shackled the potential of greatness in the minds of our young black boys. Thus, what we need to say is the truth and we can no longer let others say what they want.
Because I learned that our young black boys do care and that they do matter. They themselves show that they care by the numbers that came out to the BMDS conference in May. And they know that they matter because me and all the other speakers and presenters were there reaching out for them. I learned that they care because deep down inside they know that they have value. But I also learned that it’s time that more people recognize that value.
I’ve learned just as we have hashtags such #BlackLivesMatter, we also have to show in our actions that they really do. Because I have learned that they do care and they do have value. Just spend some time with them and they’ll show you and perhaps you’ll learn something. Just like I did.