'Men of the March' seek 'master plan,' standard of conduct A daylong summit tomorrow to focus on African-Americans

June 28, 1996|By Kaana Smith | Kaana Smith,SUN STAFF

Edwin Avent felt empowered last fall at the Million Man March as he stood alongside other African-American men who were trying to make a difference in their communities. But the Baltimore man also left the event somewhat disappointed.

"We were there to see how we could bring our collective strengths together to better the situations in our communities," said Avent, a local entrepreneur. "But a lot of us went there looking for a master plan."

Organizers of a daylong summit tomorrow in Baltimore on the African-American community say they hope to devise such a master plan for people like Avent.

"Baltimore's Men of the March: A Day of Commitment" summit will be held at the Baltimore Arena from 8: 30 a.m. until 6 p.m. The summit's goals include developing a standard of action and behavior for African-American males.

The summit, which is open to all races, genders and religions, will focus on commitment to family and community and economic investment in the black community, organizers say. Keynote speakers such as the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., former executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will discuss issues from a national perspective and will be followed by sessions focusing on local issues.

"We want to develop a collective plan of action that we all can strive to follow," said Ricky Smith Sr., co-chair of the event. "But the success of the summit depends on each individual developing a personal plan of action." The summit will serve to showcase local community leaders and help people to learn by their example, he added.

Representatives from the Baltimore City Healthy Start Men's Services program will be on hand to do just that.

The more than 170 fathers enrolled in the 3-year-old program live in the Sandtown-Winchester, Harlem Park, and Middle East communities. Members meet regularly to improve their child-rearing skills and support each other. "We want the focus to be on the family, father and serenity," said Joe Jones, director of the Men's Services program. "Children are always exposed to the violent images of black men. This is a chance for black men to present a more positive image to their sons."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke also will be on hand to discuss ways to help the black community "that would be of significance -- measurable goals that next year when we gather we can assess how successful we've been in achieving those goals," he said yesterday at his weekly press conference.

Organizers say they hope the summit will help fulfill one of the goals of the Million Man March: for participants to go home and take responsibility for themselves and their families, and to find solutions to problems that plague the black community.

"One of the things that came out of the march is a heightened sensitivity and awareness," Smith said. "It put individuals on a stage, but their stories aren't new. I don't think the march necessarily turned individuals around; it gave men who are out there trying to do something good a sense of hope and support."

That sense of hope did propel Avent to make a difference. Along with three other African-American entrepreneurs, Avent opened the Redwood Grill, a restaurant in downtown Baltimore, four months ago.

"There were a lot of educated brothers there to speak out because we deal with a lot of stuff too," Avent said. "It was a chance to say that we could unite. That we aren't all out there shooting people."

Avent and the Men's Services program will have booths at the event, providing advice and support for the more than 50,000 people expected to attend. Tickets are $5 at the door, and there will be live entertainment and several food and merchandise vendors at nearby Hopkins Plaza.

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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