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Uplifting Black Men Conference

Uplifting Black Men Conference

The 6th Annual Uplifting Black Male Conference is moving online!

The Student Success Center is eager to announce our 6th Annual Uplifting Black Men Conference that will be held virtually on Saturday, February 27, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Building upon previous thematic conferences, we have selected “I Got Next” as the theme for this year’s virtual conference. The mission of “I Got Next” is to inspire and empower this generation of Black men to achieve any goals that they want—to promote the importance of the journey and the work associated. This conference will provide a virtual space for participants to plan, execute, and assess their educational and personal goals with the help of renowned presenters.  

Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. Dr. Dyson—a Distinguished University Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies, College of Arts & Science, and Distinguished University Professor of Ethics and Society, The Divinity School, and Centennial Professor at Vanderbilt University—is one of America’s premier public intellectuals and author of over 20 books, including sevenNew York Times bestsellers. A contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and political analyst for MSNBC, Dyson is recipient of two NAACP Image Awards and the 2020 Langston Hughes Festival Medallion. Former President Barack Obama has noted, “Everybody who speaks after Michael Eric Dyson pales in comparison.”

I Got Next is a call to action, it is a phrase that keeps the dream attainable and focuses one on the goal at hand. Without that, dreams’ purpose are lost, and without purpose, function is lost. No matter where I am or where you are, you have to know that there is always a next step. We want to pose some specific questions to prepare our listeners for today:  

  • How do you prepare for the next game? 
  • What game are you playing? (Either athletic or life situation)
  • What is the next step? 

These questions and scenarios play a vital role in preparing you for the next steps in life. It’s more than just a game. It’s applicable to life, and the journey awaits. Collectively, we curated a theme to describe the preparation, planning, and execution necessary to master life’s journey.


Friday, February, 26, 2021
Registration coming soon

Conference Schedule at a Glance

*To attend both Welcome and Live Keynote, you must register for the conference.

Saturday, February 27, 2021
10:30 a.m. Welcome Session led by Dr. Kimberly Smith, Associate Vice Provost, Student Success Initiatives; Deseria Creighton Barney, President VA Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors; and Dr. Michael R. Williams, Assistant Director, Student Success Center
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Concurrent Session Track 1
12:00 - 12:30 p.m. Break
12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Concurrent Session Track 2
1:30 - 2:00 p.m. Break
2:00 - 3:00 p.m. Live Keynote led by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson
3:00 - 3:30 p.m. Break
3:30 - 4:30 p.m. Concurrent Session Track 3
4:30 - 5:00 p.m. Break
5:00 - 5:30 p.m. Networking Group Session

Detailed Outline

Ignoring the Elephant in the Room: Unpacking the shortcomings of “college and career readiness” as an educative approach in urban schools as preparation for tomorrow’s economy
As the language of “college and career readiness” continues to permeate the psyche of America’s public education system in both suburban and urban districts, the fixation on preparing students for college and careers is potentially harmful for students, particularly urban students of color. Thus students, particularly Black students, who are being schooled in “college and career readiness” will have to contend with the reality that though they are more formally educated than ever, the economy of tomorrow will still deem them expendable.

Let's Get You Career Ready
Getting your degree is an important step, but it’s only one component in preparing you for a successful career. This workshop will focus on several practical career development strategies that students should employ to ensure they set themselves up for success. Topics that will be covered include: the power of mentorship, building a strong network that works for you, resume building, interviewing and setting yourself apart from the competition.

Bring Your 'A' Game: Advocacy, Activism, and Allies for Black Lives
Meaningful engagement is part of a social justice-centered lifestyle. Effective support for marginalized groups requires intentional and sustained effort. In this session, we'll consider strategies for advocacy, allyship, and activism for black men. Build your partnership profile and discover ways to create and sustain change!

Patriarchy & Media: What does manhood mean to Black men in America?
An interactive discussion with photos, quotes, videos, lyrics and text designed to critically examine what it means to be a Black man in America. In this discussion both participants and the presenter will consider what it means to heal in this country as well as our responsibility in perpetuating and dismantling the system of patriarchy.

What Next?: Black Male Stereotypes in a Capitalist Society
An interactive workshop that explores how Capitalism discourages diversity and limits progress for Black males in American society. We will discuss the impact of capitalism on 1) career, residence, and material possessions; 2) media technologies' published messages and images that contribute to negative stereotypes; and 3) the formation of style and hip-hop culture as an act of naming or resisting with regard to the proliferation of questionable and brutal treatment of Black males by law enforcement agents and society.

I Am Man: Redefining the Imagery of Black Masculinity
This workshop will delve into the dark past of sexual exploitation of men of color from slavery and indigenous cultural practices that emasculated and damaged the notion of healthy sexuality amongst men of color. We will discuss events and cultural experiences that reinforce negative stereotypes of masculinity and perpetuate the lethal and unjust standard of silence that has been normalized among men of color that have been victims of sexual exploitation, violence, and or abuse. 

Can I get an Amen?: How Spirituality Affects Black Male Student Success
This phenomenological study explored how Black Christian males experience white colleges and universities. The environment that Christian Black males experience could have detrimental effects on their collegiate success (Blumhofer, 2002). Environments can shape experiences, and it is important to understand the transition that Black males experience when they come to a predominately white institution (Chavous, 2000). For this reason, it is worth examining the role of Christianity in Black male students’ lives (Strayhorn, Terrell, & Watson, 2010). Using hermeneutic phenomenology, the study explored the “lived experiences” of Black male Christian collegians (van Manen, 1990). By understanding the experiences of Black male Christian students institutions can construct environments that help enhance success of Black Christian males.

The Maskulinity Trap: Tackling The Fear of Being Authentic
Many Black men, including myself, have lived with a mask on. This mask shows us as independent and composed individuals while underneath we feel helpless, tired, and battered. We do not want to show emotions or depend on others for the threat of being called “weak”. This presentation will explore my personal story with struggles balancing masculinity and authenticity. Also, the presentation will address statements and actions that create this mask in order to invoke self-reflection & self-awareness.

It's More Than Sneakers: Setting Goals to Build a $10,000+ Reselling Business
What are your life goals (building wealth, going to college, graduating from high school)? Do you like Yeezy's, Jordan's, KITH, Nike, Off-White, and more fashion and shoe brands? This interactive session will teach attendees about setting goals to achieve success in school, work, and/or life. Also, attendees will receive information about reselling successes and challenges.

Confidence Matters: How To Positively Frame Life Experience for Career Development
Historically African American males have been guilty of micro-aggressive behavior by other cultural groups, leading to a lack of confidence in the classroom, and subsequently, in the job search or career development process. In this presentation, we will discuss how highlighting accomplishments and creativity will increase the job search/job interview confidence of African American males, better positioning them for success during interviews and improve job placement rates, especially in STEM fields.

Learn the rules of the game
One of the challenges we face is to never let schooling interfere with our education. In this presentation, we will examine one strategy for preparing for the next game: lifelong learning. Participants will discuss the importance of voluntarily and intentionally feeding the mind information that will contribute to one’s success. This session will include real-world examples, an interactive exercise, and group discussion. Participants will learn from the speaker’s journey and leave with an improved appreciation for self-directed education.

Police Reform: What Comes Next? Empowering Black Men to Play a Pivotal Role in the Future of Law Enforcement
Engage with VTPD Chief of Police Mac Babb and Officer Micah Pasquarell as they lead a discussion on current social movements, meaningful police reform, and how black men can be most empowered to help shape the landscape of law enforcement in the 21st century. Intended to be an interactive discussion, sharing of diverse opinions and perspectives are welcome and appreciated. It won’t be the same without your voice: sign up today.

The Culture Misfit: Being a Black Man in Tech and Unfiltered Tips to Create Wealth in the Industry
The tech industry produces the most capital and billionaires through massive valuations and salaries, but how do we get a piece of that? The silent rules do change based upon the color of your skin, but there is value in identifying your competitive advantage to overcome imposter syndrome, create wealth, and leverage innovation/ entrepreneurship to achieve the seeds of wealth. Founder of a data analytics tech start- up and author of the e-book, The Culture Fit, the experiences Boyd is able to authentically share stem from resilience, mental fortitude, and economic empowerment with a specific focus for those interested in tech with non-traditional or underrepresented backgrounds. 

Africulture: The contributions of people of African descent to Agriculture
Africulture will highlight the contributions of people of African descent to agriculture, challenging the perception of Africans to just being slaves and growing cotton. We share facts and actual numbers of the value Africans added to the Western economy, the many inventions, practices and propagation techniques that Black people have created that we partake of on a daily basis to this day. Africulture desires to reshape the image of the farmer and the agriculture profession as a dignified, needed and profitable occupation that young black men and women should consider as a profession. We also highlight basic crops of interests, asset acquisition, ownership and retention of land and taking pride in telling your story of pride and rural life.

Securing Your Seat at the Decision-Making Table
50-80% of jobs are found through networking according to National Public Radio. My talk will focus on how to network, build meaningful relationships, and how to find mentors.

Say what you mean: Tips from a Master of Ceremonies
Join in this interactive workshop on communicating as a Black man. From writing lyrics, speeches, and personal statements to speaking up in a group setting, communication is a complex part of life for a Black man. This workshop will focus on written and oral communication highlighting strategies for using assertions and transitions. Sign up for this session to express yourself and bond through wordplay.

I Got Now
During this discussion, we’ll talk to members of the advisory board about the vision behind “I Got Next” and how Black men could move forward as a collective in post-secondary education and beyond. 

Deeply Rooted: Maintaining the Breath on a Daily
“...O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up.” - Toni Morrison, Beloved. As Black men and boys experience trauma and triggering messages from social media, intercommunity engagement, and failing systems, they may often feel a weighted pressure on their necks. This session hopes to utilize hip hop theory and ideology through a crafted playlist that explores the nuance of having the ability to “keep ya head up”. Utilizing the concepts of breathwork and mindfulness, while interweaving yoga techniques focused on dealing with individuals dealing with trauma, the presenter hopes to provide pathways that guide participants to new ways of centering their health and well-being.