*DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) is sponsoring a conference that will explore problems experienced by Black males and will set up a framework for attacking those problems, including a Black Male Institute.

The National Summit of the Black Males in Higher Education Think Tank, with the theme, “Rebuilding the Caring Community for the Black Family: Launching a Movement of Transformation,” will explore such issues as high unemployment, poverty, high drop-out rates, the decline of the Black family, high crime and incarceration rates, mental health issues and disproportionately high rates for HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. The summit will also offer successful role models and discuss solutions.

The summit will bring celebrities, government officials, activists, educators and experts to the university. The hosts of the summit are Rev. Al Sharpton, former presidential candidate, national radio host and president of the National Action Network, a New York-based social justice organization; Steve Harvey, game show host, comic, television personality and national radio host; and Larry Handfield, prominent Miami attorney and chairman of B-CU’s Board of Trustees.

The event will be held on March 22, 2011, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at B-CU, a historically black institution in Daytona Beach founded on the humanitarian ideals of Mary McLeod Bethune, a historical figure who was born to former slaves in the 19th Century and rose from humble beginnings to become a world-renowned educator, civil and human rights leader, champion for women and young people and advisor to five U.S. presidents.

Among the features of this summit that will separate it from similar events is that the conference will establish various means to provide continuous support for Black males. The conference will mark the official launch of the Black Male Institute, which will provide a continuing network for the success of Black males. The conference also will establish a mentorship system in which successful males will be paired with students who attend the conference or who get connected through other mechanisms.

The effort responds to the shocking statistics regarding Black males. For instance:

Joblessness for 16-to-24-year-old Black men has reached Great Depression levels – more than three times the rate for the general U.S. population.

The achievement gap between Black and white students continues to grow, especially among Black males. According to a study released in August by the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation for Public Education, the high school graduation rate for Black males in the United States in 2008 was only 47 percent.

A congressional committee looking into the plight of Black males reported recently that a Black male without a high school diploma has a 60 percent chance of being incarcerated before the age of 30. In fact, the committee found that a Black male in his late 20’s without a high school diploma is more likely to go to jail than to be working.

Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of Bethune-Cookman University, explained that the summit is based on ideals articulated in her book, The Caring Community: A Journey into the Spiritual Domain of Transformative Leadership.

“If you look at what is happening across America, Black Americans have made many social and economic gains but we have lost the caring community,” Dr. Reed said. “We don’t have a community to support these young brothers. But through transformative leadership we can change the lives of Black males. We need to unveil a model for reconnecting the community that involves everyone – the faith-based community, educators, community and political leaders, the business community and parents.”

Dr. Reed added: “If Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune were alive today she would be doing exactly what we doing – working on improving the lives of young African Americans.”

Participants believe the event will be the most compelling summit the region has ever seen concerning Black males.

“The Black male is undergoing a crisis and a summit like this is a crucial part of ongoing efforts by National Action Network to find solutions,” Rev. Sharpton said. “We need to make sure that the political leaders of this country are willing to help with not just policies but resources. I want to make sure that I bring all the political and economic forces that I can to help this summit succeed.”

The fact that the summit will launch programs for continuous support is the key to its success, said Steve Harvey, who promised to use his national platform to bring attention to the problems and to advance solutions: “The mentoring program is particularly important. Many of these boys are growing up without fathers in the home. I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like without my father. A young boy without a father is like an explorer without a map. Thus summit will directly attack that problem.”

Handfield added that colleges and universities play a key role in helping Black males: “I have more than a fleeting interest in improving the plight of the Black male. I grew up in the inner city of Miami, raised by an uneducated single mother. Most of my friends ended up dead or in prison, but I saw early on that education as the way out and persevered, managing to get a band scholarship to Bethune-Cookman University. Young people cannot do it alone. We adults must be committed to helping, and as chairman of Bethune-Cookman’s board I will work hard to make sure we are committed to this effort.”

Use the contact information at the top of this press release to arrange interviews or to find out more information. To learn more about Bethune-Cookman University, visit www.cookman.edu. The event will be held at the Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center, 640 Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard in Daytona, Beach, FL 32114.

Ivan Thomas
Jerry Thomas

Jerry Thomas Public Relations
Jerry Thomas Public Relations

[email protected]
[email protected]