The weekend of March 10 was one of the most riveting, exciting and educational weekends I’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience.
Now, I’ve had some pretty riveting and exciting weekends, but education is usually never a part of that.
It was the weekend of the third annual Black Male Orientation to Leadership Development Conference, or simply the BOLD Conference, held at Washington State University. It was a weekend devoted to teaching black males to become leaders instead of inmates and welfare recipients.
We got our info packets, T-shirts and housing assignments before setting our stuff down in our dorm rooms. We then listened to the opening sessions and took in some pretty graphic slides devoted to sexually transmitted diseases shown by Charles Wilson, a health educator from the People of Color Against AIDS Network. If more high school students saw these slides, they’d definitely think twice before having unprotected sex.
That night we did dancing, and I don’t mean that all the black males learning leadership skills got sweaty and danced with each other. Instead, there was an African American Women’s Conference going on at the same time and, unlike last year, we spent more times with the sisters. I was unaware that there were so many fine-looking black women in the world, and I never thought that I would be lucky enough to see so many in one place.
That was just the first day of ‘95’s most unforgettable weekend yet. The second day was twice as exciting. We attended general seminars; I started in one given by Anthony Asdullah Samad, who I remembered from last year for his colorful tribal apparel.
The high school kids got on him a bit for his stand on rap music (he doesn’t like it), but the man was deep and had a great education and plenty to say.
The next session, given by Lawrence Walker, was entitled Empowering African American Males to Succeed. In this session, we told him about the racial diversity in our respective schools in different parts of Washington. Only a very few kids didn’t feel tremendously outnumbered in their schools. We also talked what our idea of success was.
After the first two sessions, we attended lunch in the senior ballroom. It was comical to see the waiters and waitresses get nervous serving all these black people. They ended up dropping or spilling four or five things. Some of the university students put on an interesting skit while we ate salad and lasagna, which were the only two downers of the conference.
The next session was what I thought was the best part of last year’s BOLD conference. It was the “Real to Real” session, which is exactly what it sounds like. You come hard, you come real, no-holds barred, no opinions held back. All opinions count but are not necessarily embraced.
Last year we spoke mainly on black history, but this year we spoke on rap music’s abusive language toward women and the words we use when greeting a fellow black male. I spoke on how I thought rap was just an art form and how the language was just to get across a point. The people my age agreed, while the older people had their argument, but respected my opinion.
We then had a short break followed by a session with both the young men and women. I only took in half of this particular session, but the speaker, Dr. Julianne Malveax, who spoke about Affirmative Action, amazed me with her timely wit and abundant knowledge.
After dinner we changed and headed to the game room for free pool and bowling, along with dancing and video games. If you’ve ever gotten used to dancing with people with less rhythm and coordination that yourself, and then tried dancing with someone with twice as much rhythm and coordination, you know how humbling that can be.
From the many things I learned at the BOLD conference there is one thing I will always remember. That I, as well as many other young black males, have ignored the most special, beautiful being that has graced the earth’s surface: the black female. Of all the black women I spoke with at the BOLD conference, not a one turned me off for any reason.
I can truly say that I have a newfound respect for the African American woman as the strong, helpful, educated being that she is.
With everything that I learned that weekend, I would describe the BOLD conference with three easy words: riveting, exciting and educational.
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