HOLLYWOOD — The 28th annual 100 Black Men of America conference is slated for this Thursday through Sunday in Hollywood and the theme of educating young black men is all the more timely following the launch of President Barack Obama’s recent initiative to help young men achieve in higher education.
“My Brother’s Keeper” is a program Obama announced in February to help black, Hispanic and Native American boys and young men stay out of the criminal justice system and pursue higher education. Businesses, foundations and community groups would coordinate investments to create and support programs to support the initiative.
Albert Dotson Jr., chairman-emeritus of the national 100 Black Men and an equity partner in a Miami law firm, was asked to be a part of the national coalition for the program, which also includes basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, said Dennis Wright, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale chapter of 100 Black Men.
“It only makes sense to take that message of addressing the success of black males in education and drive it home to our local community,” Wright said Conference sessions will focus on improving the success of black males in the school system, Wright said.
“You can expect a brain trust of African-American men working together to improve education by sharing best practices and implementing solutions to help young people be more successful,” Wright said.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale chapter of 100 Black Men partners with Broward County Public Schools and Nova Southeastern University in Davie to provide mentoring programs to students.
Mentoring workshops will be included at a health and wellness fair the Greater Fort Lauderdale chapter of 100 Black Men is presenting at Dillard High School, 2501 NW 11th St., Fort Lauderdale, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Free health screenings, a youth talent showcase and a banking for youth workshop are some of the other activities planned for the fair.
“Our goal is to have every young person to sign up for a mentor, which has a tremendous impact on a child’s life,” said Wright, who noted the 11-year-old chapter has mentored youth for the past 10 years.
Florida has several 100 Black Men chapters, in Cape Coral, Tallahassee, Tampa, Miami Shores, Pensacola, Orlando, Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale.
The South Florida chapter, based in the Miami area, is celebrating its 25th year anniversary, said chapter president Ellis Adger. He noted that education is one of the four initiatives of the organization, along with health and wellness, mentoring and economic empowerment.
The chapter’s leadership academy program mentors 40 to 60 students yearly, said Marc Henderson, who sits on the board of directors for the chapter. Students are exposed to featured speakers discussing their life experiences, as well as trips to visit colleges, Wall Street and the historic community of Rosewood, which was destroyed by whites in a racist rampage. The students range from sixth to 12th graders.
“One hundred percent of our seniors go on to college,” said Henderson, who added that several of the high school seniors have a 4.0 GPA and higher. “These kids have good grade point averages. It shows that it is okay to get good grades; it is not acting white.”
The 100 Black Men began in New York in 1963 and has grown to 10,000 members in the U.S. and overseas in Africa, the Bahamas and London, England, Adger said.
“At the conference, we will have education experts to speak about what’s happening with the youth in this country and the challenges that are faced,” Adger said. “We are looking forward to sharing with other chapters and stressing the importance of children receiving education.”