I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend my first Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit in Atlanta, GA, a three-day business event tailored to both established business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. I was overly excited to attend the high-powered sessions on business topics. However, though in the midst of an entrepreneur’s event, I was most excited to attend the much needed and solution-focused Black Males Matter Town Hall.
Hosted by Southern Company and the 100 Black Men of America and moderated by Black Enterprise President & CEO Earl “Butch” Graves, the heated and passionate discussion featured guest panelist: Cris Carter, entrepreneur and NFL hall of famer; Roland Martin, American journalist, commentator, host, NewsOne Now; Shawn Dove, CEO, Campaign for Black Male Achievement; Christopher Womack, president of external affairs at Southern Company
Just before the town hall entertainment mogul, Steve Harvey ignited the discussion when he was asked by Earl “Butch” Graves, “What do we have to do to help young black boys become responsible black men?” Steve Harvey, responded: “The situation with our young African-American men will not get solved unless we as black men solve it ourselves.” Harvey went on to further say that “Calvary ain’t coming. Black men are the only ones who can teach black boys to be black men…We forgot to teach the generation behind us how to be real men.”
Referencing Dr. King’s dream and his radical economic push in his speech, panelist Roland Martin discussed how we cannot continue to make the same mistakes by saying it’s on us and deny how we even got to this point… “We must confront public policy”. The conversation was further fueled when, Cris Carter chimed in and said that it is all about personal responsibility and shared how he was sick and tired of all the excuses we make for our black men. He further when on to say we cannot depend on the government to save our black boys. “When does a black life matter? When a black man stands up and says it does.” Roland Martin said it’s not enough just to own this issue ourselves, “We need to connect personal responsibility with public policy”. He offered these ideas to solve to tackle the issue: individuals advocating for better schools, challenging black fraternities to open up educational academies, and criminal justice reform.
Who will save our black males, Public Policy or Personal Responsibility? Because of my professional background in Computer Information Systems, I’ve always believed that systematic problems normally require a systematic solution. Having been involved with these type of discussions dealing with these issues, rarely have we ever come to a conclusion of a one fits all solution. I agree advocating for better public policy and bringing more awareness is important, so that our voices are heard. I’m talking about doing more then just posting the latest popular hashtag on social media or voting only in Presidential elections! We must get engaged locally and understand how public policy impacts our daily lives. It is public policy that governs the cities that we live in, our schools, and our economic programs. It’s important that we attend local meetings like city council meetings, school board meetings and county meetings and advocate for our black males. You cannot sleep on the power and influence of your constituency. However, I cannot ignore Cris Carter’s point of personal responsibility, because the reality is we become what we see, and if young black males see older black males not only saying but also showing that black males matter through their own personal walk and most importantly mentoring those who come behind them, I do believe it will have an impact in shifting the narrative. If we’re going to win this war, we have to attack it on multiple fronts. #BlackMalesMatter
By: Kerline “K.” Jules
Photo by Black Enterprise