BLACK HISTORY MONTH workshop
In honor of Black History Month, the EMYI Program hosted its monthly workshop on February 11, 2023. The workshop's design and purpose was to highlight how far African Americans have come and how much further we must go to continue thriving as a collective. The theme of this February workshop was "Celebrating Black Excellence, The Struggle Continues." Our intent was to highlight the fact that African Americans have made and continue to make substantial contributions to the world, despite overwhelming adversity. With our youth being the future leaders of tomorrow, it is imperative that we pour wisdom into our young men, reminding them of where they came from historically, in order to help them gain a better sense of where they are going. To accomplish these objectives, we were fortunate to have three amazing speakers join us in the effort.
Reverend DuJuan A. Morris is a pastor and community activist who is currently pursuing his PhD while teaching African American history at Spelman College. Reverend Morris kicked off the morning by emphasizing the importance of education and how we spend our time. Like Booker T. Washington, Morris reasoned that higher education enables us to make better lifestyle choices, prolong health, and increase skills and opportunity, which allows us to move up the socioeconomic ladder. As an expert in economic development, Kyle P. Banks took time to remind the students of their power and responsibility as leaders in the making. "Don't forget about your communities. Come back and talk to people about their economic value, teach them the skills that you know, the secrets you've learned." Entrepreneur and inventor Kenneth Simpson, creator of the newly patented BodyCloth360, spoke about the challenges of bringing abstract ideas into reality and the uphill battle of promoting his brand. "Nothing is going to be easy, but if you see something that works and you keep on pushing it, eventually it could be in everyone's household." Similarly, Dr. Torrence informed students that "Although we may not always be aware of it, we are always creating a personal brand for ourselves. We are constantly being viewed and judged by the world, so we must pay close attention to our personal presentation."
Last but not least, students viewed the award-winning Ken Burns documentary "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson." This riveting documentary about the world's first African American heavyweight champion, known as the "Galveston Giant," gave students a glimpse into turn of the century political and social hierarchies during and after Reconstruction. Jack Johnson fought tirelessly to be recognized not only as a heavyweight champion, but also as a man deserving of all of the rights and privileges which were then strictly reserved for White Americans. This was no small feat during the Jim Crow era and took not only super human strength, but unbelievable courage as well.
"This was a great workshop... Those who were here, will not walk out of the door the same way they came in."
- Rev. Kenneth G. Torrence