The 2019 Clemson University Men of Color National Summit opened with college professor, political commentator and TV personality Melissa Harris-Perry challenging the standing-room-only crowd of attendees to question the way we measure, define and reward achievement.
She encouraged attendees to think about “the stories we tell about the challenges facing our community, what questions we can use to challenge those stories and how these questions help us create more socially just outcomes.”
Held in May, this was the third year of the conference dedicated to help create college and career pathways for male students of color. The conference brought together 2,000 experts, educators, thought leaders and students from across the nation to share ideas, discuss what works and doesn’t work, and to consider what hasn’t yet been tried.
Attendees also chose from more than 45 breakout sessions covering topics such as “Seven Steps to Make Adversity Your Advantage” and “My Destiny Is Great. Now How Do I Get There?”
“The summit is an especially powerful experience for the students who attend because they are able to see for themselves how many people support their success,” said Julio Hernandez, chief of staff and associate director for Hispanic outreach in Clemson’s Division of Inclusion and Equity. “When resources are made available to these young men and they receive mentoring, their professional and personal growth is limitless.”
Clemson President Jim Clements introduced the 400 members of Tiger Alliance, a college access program designed for South Carolina African American and Hispanic males in grades nine through 12, and the 200 participants of Clemson’s Emerging Scholars program, which focuses on students from South Carolina’s I-95 corridor.
“I know we need to work harder to close the achievement gap that exists in this county,” Clements said, describing the work Clemson is doing to ensure all students excel. “I truly believe in the life-changing, transformational powers of education, and that education is a path to a better life not just for an individual but for society as a whole.”
In addition to Harris-Perry, speakers included Ronald Estrada of Univision Communications, author and leadership consultant Anton J. Gunn, University of Maryland-Baltimore County president Freeman Hrabowski, Joy Thomas Moore of JWS Media Consulting, UCLA education professor Pedro Noguera and Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada.
Canada was introduced by his son, Clemson student Geoffrey Canada Jr. Canada challenged the high school students in attendance to stand up for what they believe in, never give up and prepare for the moment that could shape their lives.
“Nothing in this life happens without courageous people standing up and doing the right thing,” he said. “And part of what you’re going through right now as young men is not just getting a decent education and getting into college but to figure out what do you stand for.”
The 2020 Men of Color National Summit will take place March 3–4 at the Greenville Convention Center.