Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Kente Summit for collegiate Black men. The event was aimed at Black students from any of the Minnesota private colleges, and there were well over 50 students in attendance over the course of the two days. This was the third annual Kente Summit, and the theme was “Embracing Boldness, Brilliance, and Belonging”. The event started on Friday night at Macalester College with a call to community and a welcome from the Kente Summit planning committee, followed by a great dinner and discussion among the participants. The weekend’s first keynote address followed, with Dr. Alexs Pate, author of Amistad: The Novel, discussing “The Challenge of Self-Liberation as Preparation for Leadership”. He talked about being absolutely true to yourself, and being proud and confident in that, no matter what others (or even society) have proven to expect of you. He described it as reclaiming one’s innocence. Very powerful. Dr. Pate was extremely engaging and you could tell the entire room left feeling inspired.
Dr. Alexs Pate speaking to the students after Friday’s dinner.
Everyone returned Saturday morning, and day two of the Kente Summit began with an opening from Shed G, actor in several Tyler Perry movies and radio personality for KMOJ’s (89.9 FM) morning show. He talked about his experience going to college and had everybody laughing! After the opening, the students were given the choice of three different breakout sessions on the following topics: African Americans in the Media (presented by Shed G); Making the Jump from College to Career (presented by Chris Buckley, career professional for U of MN’s College of Liberal Arts); and John Harrington (Chief of Metro Transit Police).
Shed G waking us up with jokes on Saturday morning.
After a nice lunch, the students heard from the final speaker of the Kente Summit, Melvin Carter. Carter is the director of the Office of Early Learning at the MN Dept. of Education, and former member of the St. Paul City Council. He described how he is an example of how one can achieve success despite humble beginnings, with passion and dedication. More breakout sessions followed, which included the following: Impacting the Community (presented by Melvin Carter), The African Diaspora (presented by Leon Rodrigues, Chief Diversity Officer at Bethel University), and Intersecting Identities of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexual Orientation (presented by Dr. Whitney Stewart Harris, Exec. Director for Diversity at Minnesota Community & Technical College).
Finally, the students gathered together in five different groups to discuss one of several topics that came up over the course of the Kente Summit, such as relationships between Black American students and African or African-American students; redefining traditional perceptions of Black masculinity; and what can be done to carry this Kente Summit experience forward to create a lasting sense of community among the participants, among others. After the discussion groups, we brought the event to a close with a call to action to go forward leaning on the community they have built at the Kente Summit to continue through the journey of higher education, spreading the knowledge and connections that were gained.
2013 Kente Summit participants
On a personal level, it was incredibly energizing to see such a talented, and thoughtful group of young men of color gathered together. So many of the students had great questions, intriguing stories, and unique viewpoints that it was truly a valuable experience to be a part of such a great event. We had some great students from St. Thomas attend the Kente Summit, but it is my hope that we will be able to have even more attend next year. I was privileged enough to be a part of the planning committee for the event, along with other professionals from Augsburg College, Macalester College, Concordia University, Hamline University, and the Minnesota Private College Council (the primary sponsor), and I also hope to be a part of it next year as well. The 2013 Kente Summit was definitely a success, and I think it really set the bar high for next year.