(On October 9, I had an opportunity to be a part of the Houston Black Male Summit on Education hosted Deric Muhammad and Lone Star College North Harris. I was one of the workshop presenters and spoke on overcoming barriers in the home along plus how I was able to find my biological father. The follow report on the summit is from the Muhammad Mosque No. 45 Ministry of Information)
When the words “By any means necessary” is uttered, an image of Malcolm X holding a rifle by the window may appear in your mind. However, imagine the rifle being replaced with a book in the hand of a Black male. That was the underlining goal of a Black Male Education Summit sponsored by Lone Star College North Harris on October 9 at the Greenspoint Marriot hotel.
“By any means necessary became synonymous with picking up the gun. We must now make it synonymous with picking up a book. The most powerful weapon that you have is your mind,” said Deric Muhammad, in his opening remarks.
Deric Muhammad collaborated with administrators from Lone Star College to host the summit in the midst of the city’s failing graduation rate.
According to a 2010 report by Education Week, titled Diplomas Count 2010: Graduation by the Numbers, Texas has two school districts among the largest 50 districts in the country with the worst graduation rates for the Class of 2007.
Houston is ranked 4th with a 42.2 percent graduation rate and Dallas is ranked 5th at 42.8 percent. The districts rounding out the top five worse are Detroit, Clark County, Nevada and Los Angeles. Fort Worth ISD, ranked 12th, had a graduation rate of 50 percent while Austin ISD is ranked 19th with had a graduation rate of 58.5 percent. The report also projected that approximately 1.3 million students were not expected to graduate from the Class of 2010 and showed that districts with the largest concentration of low-income students had the highest dropout rate.
“Our forefathers built the pyramids. I want you to know that higher education is in your very DNA. Higher education is not something that has to be given to you--it is something that has to be brought out of you. You’re already great,” said Deric Muhammad.
The summit attendees, ranging from middle to high school age, rotated to and took notes in three concurrent workshops presented by Durce Muhammad, Keith J. Davis, Jr., and Jesse Muhammad.
Durce Muhammad, an education consultant, spoke on the importance of appearance and its direct impact on one’s success in life. His powerpoint showed examples of the type of message sagging pants can have versus wearing a suit and tie.
As a 19-year-old entrepreneur and author, Keith J. Davis, Jr. had plenty to share with his peers on the art of doing business. “What is an entrepreneur? Someone who is willing to assume the responsibilities and rewards as it relates to starting a business. You must get an education because people can’t take that away from you,” he said.
In his workshop, titled Overcoming Family Issues, Jesse Muhammad shared his triumphs in the face of growing up while his mother battled an addiction to drugs and having no biological father present.
“Despite all of my obstacles in my life I never made excuses. I never missed a beat in school because it was my safe haven. I am a witness that we can overcome anything,” said Jesse Muhammad, a staff writer for The Final Call newspaper. He told how he miraculously found out who his biological father is and met his other relatives this summer.
The summit concluded with a luncheon featuring a keynote message by former Baton Rouge gang leader and drug dealer Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed. Before his talk, he placed the audience in shock as he played footage on a big screen of bloody crime scenes fueled by Black on Black violence.
“I entered the penal system at the age of fourteen years old. No man can ever leave prison without psychologically feeling rape. Once they opened those cell doors I realized I’m not really a gangster. Somebody made a fool of me,” said Mr. Reed who founded Stop the Killing, Inc. to launch a crusade against the glorification of “thug life.”
“I go around the country and people ask me “Slim what’s wrong with the youth?”. The answer is in the first three letters of the word—it is you! What’s wrong with you? Instead of them looking at something educational they looking at Nicki Minaj,” said Mr. Reed
16-year-old Jeremy Banks, who attends North Forest High School, said “I was deeply touched by this summit. I need to do better in school and in the way I’m acting.”
“This is wonderful and we will definitely make sure to support this as an annual event,” said Dr. Steve Head, Pres. of Lone Star College-North Harris.
“Being a part of this event was more rewarding than I could have imagined. To witness the faces of those we reached and to know that the project more than served its purpose gave me new hope in our future as a people,” said Alicia Jackson, summit organizer.
More Photos Taken by Jeremy Banks