Published : Thursday, September 26, 2013 | 1:52 PM
When I arrived at PCC on Saturday (September 21) for the 7th Annual Young African-American Maleâ€™s Conference (YAAMC), I was eager to help in the cause of inspiring and empowering black youth. What a wonderful surprise it was when I found myself inspired and empowered by those young men and boys.
The tone of the day was set by Romal Tune, a young minister, youth advocate and author (Godâ€™s Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens) who opened the conference with a riveting keynote speech recounting how he overcame poverty, street crime, and neglect by his drug-addicted single mother to graduate with honors from Howard University and the Duke University School of Divinity. Each of his gritty and tragic anecdotes culminated with Tune proclaiming the power that each of us has inside:
â€œIt isnâ€™t about the statistics that say young black end up dead or in jail. It isnâ€™t about what somebody else says about you. Itâ€™s about what you say about yourself!â€
â€œYou were not created to be a counterfeit version of somebody else. I am going to be unapologetically me!â€
â€œUnderstand the rules of the game of life so you can play to win!â€
â€œYou were born with a purpose and your destiny is in your hands!â€
Tuneâ€™s courageous optimism was comforting and energizing â€“ not only for the estimated 200 middle school, high school and college-age young men who listened in rapt silence but also for grown-ups like me who were grateful for an unexpected word of encouragement as we grapple with a host of grown-up challenges from parenting to paying the bills in this glacially sluggish economic â€œrecovery.â€
As Tune talked, I found myself mm-hmm-ing and amen-ing as if I was in church. It felt good.
The feeling felt better and better as the youth conferees and adult facilitators exchanged thoughts, dreams and goals through a full day of workshops, discussions and fellowship. Watching the youth listen attentively, ask serious questions and offer thoughtful observations fired my faith that bright futures await our often-maligned young black males. Indeed, the enthusiasm and confidence expressed by the kids had a re-energizing effect on me, topping off my emotional and psychological gas tank which had apparently run a bit low without my even realizing it.
Thanks for listening. Iâ€™m Cameron Turner and thatâ€™s my two cents.
The Young African-American Maleâ€™s Conference is organized by the Metropolitan Community Action Services Corporation (MCASC), a non-profit (501c3) outreach of Metropolitan Baptist Church. For more information visit http://www.mcasc.us/ or phone (626) 389-00420.