BOSTON -- Despite the despair and sense of crisis around them, black men can take charge of their lives by coming to terms with who they are and finding strength and racial pride within themselves, according to speakers at a conference on the future of the black male.
Presentations at yesterday's day-long conference, which drew about 300 people to Brandeis University, alternated between grim assessments of the crisis confronting black males and positive advice about beating the odds through self-knowledge and self-esteem, education and spiritual development.
NB The conference, entitled "Summit on the African-American Male:
The Twenty-First Century," comes during a prolonged period of media attention to the plight of black males in the United States.
The Rev. Anthony Campbell, a Baptist minister and director of community outreach at Boston University, said in the keynote address that young black males in the United States have "isolated themselves" with a culture that lacks meaningful language, music, values or social memory, and which devalues life and longevity.
The 500,000 children who were at risk a decade ago are today making babies and producing the fourth dependent generation," Campbell said. Parents and community, not federal programs, must be a central part of any solution, he said.
Parents who challenge, discipline, set standards and invest time in their children are the last best hope of today's young black males, he said.
/# The themes of self-help and fam
ily and parental guidance were underscored in panel discussions.
Several black students who spoke during a panel on church and community expressed their anger at what they called a news media stereotype of the black male as an endangered species.
"I'm tired of the African-American male being portrayed as the No. 1 enemy of society, of being told I'm ignorant, violent, lazy . . . that not only will I not succeed, but that I won't even survive," said Andre Ea
ton, a senior at Brandeis.
Eaton's advice to others who want to defy the stereotype was to deal first with the situation that, because of the history of racism in U.S. society, "black men have been socialized to degrade themselves."
"To be free of that, people must love themselves first," he said. "I would say to others, cherish the life that you live. Develop your knowledge of your African-American heritage and culture. Develop respect for each other."