Nearly 300 young African American male students from all over the San Gabriel Valley converged Friday afternoon at Pasadena City College (PCC) for the 15th annual Young African American Male Conference (YAAMC).
The all-day series of workshops and panels were designed to instill confidence and inspire members of the young African American male community. Stephán McGrue, educational advisor with the PCC Upward Bound Program, and lead organizer of the conference as the activities chairperson of TABE (The Association of Black Employees), termed that demographic “one of the most marginalized members of our community.”
This year’s event, which was supported by several PCC departmental grants, including the Freeman Center, and PCC’s IEDJ (Institutional, Equity, Diversity, and Justice) Department as a primary funder of the conference, saw one of the largest crowds in recent years, said McGrue, especially in light of the COVID pandemic. The event had been virtual for at least two years.
“I felt really diligent about finding ways to be intentional about bringing them here,” said McGrue. “So I set up a street team of young black professional men and even women to come with me to surrounding schools to present this to all black males in their classrooms, and get them here and present.”
As McGrue noted, “The theme this year is ‘connectivity,’ leveraging brotherhood to achieve excellence in education and beyond. We feel that seeing each other and working hand in hand with someone that looks exactly like you is the best way to capitalize on building yourself and to network and to just be the best you can be.”
The workshops themselves ranged from “BlackSTEM: Coding & Beyond,” “Financial Lit Through Black Lens,” and “Get Down with Upward Bound,” to “Music Business vs. Music Industry,” and “Sports Workshop: Balancing Books and Ballin’.”
Students were polled beforehand as to interests, McGrue explained, and the data was compiled and applied to the conference through the workshops, and the panels, as well as the resource tables.
“That’s how we were really being intentional with keeping them focused,” said McGrue.
“It’s a full on, well-rounded experience,” he added. “It’s got education, career readiness, and cultural information.”
As McGrue stressed, “This conference is annual and we are supporting this in all efforts that we can. And we want to make it continue to be in effect, where we are working with our partners at the high schools. We want it to grow bigger so that way we can impact as many black men as we can because we don’t always have a lot of them here and they don’t always have the resources that they need to get.”