Improving trust emphasized at St. Philip’s conference to empower young men

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Four students were awarded scholarships in an essay competition.

By V.L. Roberson

Panelists encouraged dialogue and activism to address issues of social justice and equality at the May 2 “Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence Conference” at St Philip’s College.

The theme was “I am my Brother’s Keeper.”

In opening the morning session, Dr. Archie Wortham, speech professor at Northeast Lakeview College, set the tone, reciting a poem, “The Talk” by Jabari Asim, about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014:

“… Give every cop your ear, but none your wit; don’t tempt him to fold, spindle, mutilate, hit

“or otherwise cause pain to tendons, bones, muscles, brain. These are things you need to know if you want to safely come and go …”

“What is it we can do to really be part of the movement that says, we are our brother’s keeper, particularly with all the things we’ve been seeing on the news?” Wortham asked.

A town hall meeting opened the morning session with a panel consisting of Peter Sakai, 225th District Court judge; Jason Pulliam, 4th Court of Appeals justice; Daryl E. Harris, Bexar County assistant district attorney; and Michael Shepherd, retired San Antonio police officer.

Panel members emphasized choices, family, discipline and priorities as means by which the community can be brought together in the aftermath of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C.

“I want to emphasize priorities. We need more forums like this and we need the community’s input, Shepherd said. ”This has to be a priority for us.”

Students voiced concern for a way to move forward.

“I believe it starts with trust. We don’t trust each other. We don’t want to trust each other either so that kind of kills the whole bonding thing right there,” said Charles Henry, liberal arts freshman at Northeast Lakeview College.

When questioned by Wortham about a way to improve trust, Henry explained that fairness, openness and honesty would be a start.

Panel discussions and workshops with professionals and young men from middle school to college age emphasized critical thinking and tools for success academically, socially and professionally.

“The Law and You,” a workshop with Harris and Kenneth Bell, a local attorney, focused on effective communication when dealing with law enforcement.

The attorneys explained that sometimes when things happen, if a person is wronged, they may have to challenge it in the right way at the right time.

“You may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. Discipline is not punishment. It’s training,” Harris said.

Bell explained the system can work in their favor if they allow it to.

“Social Media: What’s the Bottom Line,” a workshop with Geoffery Cooper, digital marketing strategist with Cox Media Group, focused on media perception and understanding.

In this group, participants viewed and discussed YouTube videos with media coverage of recent events in Baltimore where Gray was arrested on April 12 and died from injuries suffered while in police custody on April 19.

First was Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera being confronted by a protester about the coverage by the network.

In contrast, ABC 2 News WMAR covered a nonviolent protest where the interviewee suggested that before an officer could be hired the officer should be required to perform 300-400 hours community service where the officer is being considered for duty.

“The media are like vultures. I say that as a former reporter,” Cooper said. “Go beyond the surface. Always view more than one source.”

The 1 p.m. session focused on sex and wellness with a panel consisting of Dr. Johnny Mayes, obstetrician and gynecologist; Dr. Derrick Young, senior medical director of WellMed Medical Group; Charles Whitehead, director OF HIV prevention services at BEAT AIDS; and Priest Holmes, retired Kansas City Chiefs running back.

The event has grown consistently over the years, explained Dorothy A. Carroll, committee chair for the event from the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Over the past five years, other Delta chapters have also hosted EMBODI conferences in cities across the U.S. according to the sorority’s website at www.deltasigmatheta.org/programs_embodi.html.

The conference features an essay contest. This year St. Philip’s College students Daniel Gespar Garcia and Maverick Levert Crawford were awarded $500 scholarships.

Northeast Lakeview student Charles Mario Henry received a $500 Scholarship.

Sherman Leo Hall, senior at Virginia Allred StacEy High School at Lackland Air Force Base, received the Delta Sigma Theta award for the college of his choice. He will attend Texas State University.

The essay contestants were asked:

“Recently, we have witnessed the shooting of unarmed black males by law enforcement officers. We have also seen that the judicial system (courts) have been slow to indict the officers who have taken these black males’ lives. Write an essay which focuses on what you think can be done to lessen the loss of lives on the part of the black community, Hispanic community, the white community, and law enforcement.”

There were seven contestants in the essay competition. Each participant received $50 gift card for Follett bookstores.

“Why are you here?” asked John Martin, associate director of student services at St. Philip’s College.

“I am my bother’s keeper,” responded young men in the audience.

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