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Magic Comes to Men of Color

Magic Johnson comes to Men of ColorFOR FOUR YEARS, Clemson’s Men of Color National Summit has featured an impressive lineup of speakers. Leaders from business, government, athletics and academics have spoken to students about their potential and pathways to success. This year, NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson joined the all-star lineup of speakers March 3-4 in Greenville.

Johnson brought his inspiring story of athletic and entrepreneurial success to the high school students in attendance, including members of Clemson’s college readiness program, the Tiger Alliance. He joined keynote speakers and entertainment, including Alberto Gonzales, 82nd U.S. attorney general; Jim Murren, chair and CEO of MGM Resorts International; Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, host of American Ninja Warrior and former NFL player; Robert E. Johnson, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; Johnathan Holifield, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ Domestic Policy Council; Peter Villegas, vice president and head of Coca-Cola’s Office of Latin Affairs; and Victor Robertson of Three Mo’ Tenors.

Lee Gill, chief inclusion officer and special assistant to the president for inclusion and equity at Clemson, sees the lineup of speakers as the embodiment of the summit’s goal: “Our keynote and breakout speakers are testaments of what happens when the opportunity gap is overcome and organizations commit themselves to diversity and inclusion.”

Tiger Alliance students are part of a college readiness experience that includes relationships with mentors, college visits, college-prep workshops and attendance at the Men of Color Summit. The Tiger Alliance program kicked off at the summit in 2017 and has already shown what is possible when African American and Latino students are empowered and engaged in their education; seniors from the 2019 Tiger Alliance cohort had a 98 percent graduation rate.

Sellout Crowd for Third Men of Color Summit

Freeman Hrabowski at Men of Color Summit 2019The 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 34 at the Greenville Convention Center.

Broadening the path to higher education

“If you don't have an 'I Am,' someone will have a 'You Are'," said Khalilah Shabazz of Indiana University, demonstrating how men of color are labeled. “Have a clear definition of yourself!”“If you don’t have an ‘I Am,’ someone will have a ‘You Are’,” said Khalilah Shabazz of Indiana University, demonstrating how men of color are labeled. “Have a clear definition of yourself!”

This spring, as most districts were preparing to end the school year, Clemson was focused on helping minority students who too often never make it to graduation day.

Clemson’s inaugural Men of Color National Summit was held in late April at the TD Convention Center in Greenville. The summit’s mission is to close the achievement gap for African-American and Hispanic males, who trail other demographic groups in high school graduation and college enrollment rates. This now-annual event will benefit students and their communities by identifying and promoting strategies that foster success from cradle to career.

Educators, business professionals, advocates and community leaders from 27 states attended. At the heart of the event is the Tiger Alliance — a cohort of 325 ninth through 11th-grade students from the Upstate and I-95 corridor. The 2017-18 Tiger Alliance cohort’s experience at the summit included meeting inspiring role models and attending workshops that emphasized proven, real-life skills.

The summit enjoyed strong support from the Upstate, including presenting sponsors, the city of Greenville and Greenville County. The nationally syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” broadcast live from the summit.

In addition to 30 breakout session speakers, high-profile keynotes included Tavis Smiley, host of the PBS talk show “Tavis Smiley” and PRI’s “The Tavis Smiley Show”; John Quiñones, journalist and host of the ABC newsmagazine “What Would You Do?”; Desmond Howard, Heisman Trophy winner and ESPN college football analyst; Roy Jones, executive director of Clemson’s Call Me MISTER® program; Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League; and David J. Johns, former executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans.

With the support of Clemson President James P. Clements, the event was spearheaded by Lee A. Gill, Clemson’s chief diversity officer and special assistant to the president for inclusive excellence. Gill gives the lion’s share of the credit to co-chairs Chuck Knepfle, associate vice president for enrollment management, and Julio Hernandez, associate director for Hispanic outreach, as well as a host of dedicated staff and volunteers.

A 20-year higher education veteran, Gill came to Clemson in 2016 from the University of Akron, where he had led the Black Male Summit for nine years. He hailed the first Clemson summit as a huge success.

“The Clemson summit exceeded my wildest dreams,” Gill said. “It took us nine years at Akron to reach the 2000-person level. In our first year here, to attract some 1,700 people was just outstanding. From the very start, the city of Greenville, the County of Greenville and the superintendents of the school districts understood the importance and possibilities for this event. Their support went beyond anything I ever imagined.” Gill added, “The Tiger Alliance is where the rubber meets the road. This is where our emphasis will be from now into 2018 and for years to come.”

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Confirmed keynotes for the 2018 summit include Roland Martin, Michael Eric Dyson and Marc Lamont Hill.