Black males explore the meaning of manhood

By Kenneth Jacobs

Males at Rider explored manhood as it pertains to the black community at the first annual Black Male Conference on Feb. 24.

The hosts, Bryant Smith, who has been conducting workshops for the past 14 years that focus on black male development, and Rasheed-Ali Cromwell, Esq., an associate at a Washington, D.C.-based intellectual property law firm and founder of The Harbor Institute, focused on four particular areas: identity, SMP (Spirit, Mind, Physical), R&R (Rules and Responsibilities) and opportunity.

As Smith and Cromwell discussed identity, the males explored their own individuality. The hosts explained that people’s identity is based on the various communities that they belong to.

“Don’t compromise to be recognized,” Cromwell said. “When you compromise, I give up some of my values and you give up some of yours, leading to a lose-lose situation.”

The hosts added that identity should never be situational, and everyone should represent each community equally in their daily lives.

“Don’t compromise who you are, but when you collaborate you work together and the situation becomes a win-win situation,” said Cromwell.

An activity was also performed to define what manhood is. The activity consisted of various scenarios about men, and the participants had to decide if the man in the scenario was a man or not.

Along with discussing whether or not the men in the particular scenario were in fact men or not, the participants learned that manhood does not have a definite beginning and that everyone defines manhood differently.

When the hosts discussed R&R, the participants learned that there are certain rules that must be followed and that everyone is entitled to certain rights.
Participants were made aware of how to have a balanced life during the presenters’ SMP discussion.

Both Cromwell and Smith explained that it is important to feed one’s spirit by practicing religion or just spending time reflecting on things in life.

According to Cromwell and Smith, students should build themselves mentally by reading books other than the ones assigned by professors and other educational paths, and physically empower themselves by exercising and eating healthy too. Each one of these factors is important to being a balanced male, they said.

“I conduct these workshops as a means of better preparing young men to face a world that has been ill-prepared to help them grow and to develop into mature, caring, proud young men who know their history, purpose and cultural identity,” said Smith.

During the discussion on opportunity, participants learned about the multitude of opportunities available to them — it will just take some networking skills.
Smith said he thought the workshop was productive.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Rider,” he said. “The young men who attended the workshop were engaged and taught me as much as I tried to teach them. I found them to be strong, proud young men with an extremely bright future ahead of them.”

The Center of Multicultural Affairs and Community Service sponsored the Black Male Empowerment Workshop. Donald Brown, assistant dean of Minority Affairs and director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Community Service, encouraged more people to attend next year’s workshop.

“Everyone should try to bring two new people who didn’t attend this year,” he said.

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