Symposium educates black males

Event exposes college, high school students to finances, scholarships

Professor Elliott Spirit encourages students to get educated and advance their knowledge of people of African descent during the Contra Costa College African American Male Symposium held Friday in GE-225.

Cindy Pantoja / The Advocate

Professor Elliott Spirit encourages students to get educated and advance their knowledge of people of African descent during the Contra Costa College African American Male Symposium held Friday in GE-225.

By Jose Arebalo, News Editor

Inspiration and care filled the campus as professionals from the African American community spoke to students about the importance and possibilities made available through the college experience.

The African American Male Symposium featured presentations on three subjects — financial literacy, a mindset for college and a black author’s symposium.

The event was attended by Contra Costa College students and high school students from the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

The goal of the event was to expose young African American men to the real-life examples of scholarship as they approach adulthood and weigh the importance of academia.

Athletic Director John Wade said, “The pillars were financial literacy, black author symposium, and college-bound mindset. So, we wanted the scholars to have an opportunity to get a vision of all three of those and how it could impact them.”

The idea for the event came while attending a men of color event in West County last year, he said.

There was a focus on instilling values that champion pursuing higher education and understanding it as an instrumental benefit.

“To reach African American male students, one of the bigger issues they have to understand is the importance of education at this level,” Wade said. “Because K-12 you have to go. After that, you don’t have to, so we want to make sure they engage enough with the college to understand this a place for them.”

With hopes of making students desire a college education for themselves, the symposium serves a great purpose.

“A big thing for us is to make sure they understand Contra Costa College is here for them, It’s an opportunity. What better way to do than to get them on campus,” Wade said.

The event opened with an introduction from Executive Director of the Richmond Police Activities League Larry Lewis. He told students they needed to succeed in overcoming the many difficulties and tasks in life.

He also acknowledged that police officers may at times do things such as an attempt to illegally search you, but that the best option is to stay quiet and compliant to avoid further escalation. He used his son who was once beaten by officers as an example.

Despite a serious and tense introduction, there were many reasons to be happy at the event.

“It really gives me hope. It’s a positive thing in that we work together as a community to make a difference in the lives of young people. When we all come together, it’s amazing the work that we can do,” Lewis said.

Lewis pointed to the lack of “positive adult role models in the lives of these young people.”

“I’m pleased to see all these adults directing these young people. I think that young people like this can really benefit from positive adult role models in their lives. Everybody here, even the Ph.D.’s, were them at one time,” Lewis said.

The event had many role models to offer, with professors and authors sharing their insights and knowledge.

The African American Author Symposium was an opportunity for local youth to see examples of important, maybe even neglected, parts of history be memorialized in writing.

There were books covering the history of the Black Panther movement, African American workers fighting for equal pay, African Civilization at the apex of its influence, students in sports and the history of music as a basic form of communication.

History, anthropology and geography department Chairperson Manu Ampim was one of the speakers at the event.

“One take away is the merging of the campus and local high schools in the community — to have students come to the campus for an event that features positive examples of African American men,” Ampim said. “This particular seminar has men as writers and scholars.”

One of the students in attendance felt that the symposium was doing great work.

“It’s building African American males to be leaders,” psychology major Rave Gutfeld said. “It’s confronting history, teaching them they have to fight for what they believe is right.”

A lecture was given by EOPS/CARE and CalWORKs Manager George Mills on how to prepare for success in college.

His presentation had students laughing and learning.