Fifty-Eight Black boys and their mothers recently came to True Bethel Baptist Church for a day of empowerment led by Duncan Kirkwood and Alexander Wright during a Boys to Men Youth Conference. The young men received free haircuts, free neck ties, free backpacks, and lunch. But more importantly, they attended workshops on time management, self-love, respecting women, dressing for success, how to get a job and how to interact with the police.
While the boys attended workshops the mothers and grandmothers were bused to the Buffalo Public Schools parent orientation, and then to the Black Business Bazaar where they received free items and a free massage. After the Bazaar, the mothers attended a special job fair back at True Bethel. “To be honest, in my original vision of the event I thought we would have mostly high school age boys to attend” said Kirkwood. “It was quite a surprise that the majority of the mothers who registered had young men that were in 3rd to 8th grade. I was concerned that the young men wouldn’t have been able to really focus during the 50 minute workshops, but to my surprise they were very locked in and focused!
“ I have heard so many things about our children,” he continued,” like they can’t learn or they are all havebehavior problems and that’s school. I have heard people talk down about the parents in our community, saying things like it’s their fault that their kids aren’t learning etc. but at our youth conference, I got to watch Black men teach these young boys in groups of 20 or 40 at a time! “The young men were well behaved and very attentive. It really showed me the difference it makes to Black boys to have a Black man teaching them.”
Event presenters and speakers included Officer Badger, Officer Whitaker, Minister Whitaker, Oswaldo Mestre, Demone Smith, De’yron Tabb, Phillip Dabney, Daniel Robertson, David Blackburn, Sheldon Gibbs, Mayor Byron Brown, NYS Senator Tim Kennedy, NYS Regent Dr. Catherine Collins and Alexander Wright.
Special thanks to event sponsors: The African Heritage Economic Initiative, Council President Darius Pridgen,
True Bethel Baptist Church, Erie County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams, WBLK, The Community Action Organization of WNY, NYS Senator Tim Kennedy, Assemblywoman Crystal People-Stokes, Mayor Byron Brown and the City of Buffalo, Common Councilmember Chris Scanlon, Judge Debra Givens, The ECMC Foundation, The Buffalo Urban League, Voice Buffalo, Open Buffalo, The Challenger Community News, Elim Christian Fellowship, The United Coalition of Churches and Brotherhoods and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated.