By: Lorenzo Tolbert
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. –Fredrick Douglass
Houston, TX– Freedom and crops- now better known as a meals- are likely a basic desire of most Black men in American society. That is, the ability to walk in society without a negative trace (rap sheet), to be able to navigate through social circles without stigma for being Black, and for their families to have food on the table every night. Many may agree that those are reasonable ideas for any man to have; however, the Black man has been called by history to toil fiercely for those rights.
Pastor Eddie Andre Deckard, founder and senior pastor of Green House International Church, and Deric Muhammad, Houston-based activist/organizer, came together to host this year’s summit. Not often do our Black Christian and Muslim men collaborate, however, these men set aside their personal beliefs to aid young black men to prepare for their future- or plan to toil for success. Specifically, the speakers all touched on having a plan or blueprint for the future. Deric Muhammad exclaimed that, “if you don’t have a plan, Trump has a plan for you”– speaking on Jeff Sessions, Vice President of the United States, endorsement of reinstating mandatory minimum sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws set minimum sentences for certain crimes that judges cannot lower, even for extenuating circumstances. The most common of these laws deal with drug offenses and set mandatory minimum sentences for possession of a drug over a certain amount. Muhammad stressed the point that prison owners need to fill those prisons and are looking at “us” to fill them.
The summit also encouraged the young black males to recognize and cultivate their talents to help discover their purpose. This process was that of older man pouring into the younger men. For example, a young boy who aspired to be a chef was paired with a gentleman who had an ample amount of experience in cooking. During times such as this at the summit, experienced men were able to pour into boys and teens with aspirations. In the Black community, it is suggested that there is a disconnection between younger and older generations- especially with men. This platform allowed for a transformation of knowledge, wisdom, and respect.
In addition to the community leaders who stirred the young men, Mayor Sylvester Turner came to give words of wisdom and to encourage. He said passionately to the young men, “I didn’t make it here on my own” and “it’s time to show you that we care”. Tuner’s speech clearly reached the audience as he had he already sent a message to the young men by appearing at the event to invest in their future.
The “SMART’N UP” Black Male Summit focuses on the unique needs of young Black males in America and abroad. It is designed to provide tools to inner-city males to make better decisions in life. Since its conception in 2010, the summit has helped to transform the lives of hundreds of its participants and is getting bigger and stronger every year. The African- American community must continue to strive to be mindful in reaching young black men. Instead of constantly having experienced and mature advice pouring into their ear, many young Black men are fatherless and isolated from constructive environments. As a result, many Black males travel through life without sufficient support in their communities. If the Black community is to ponder success, it must also ponder the nurturing (spiritual, mental, physical) of its young men.