Summit Addresses Needs, Concerns of Black Men

Planners Seek Greater Input from Youth

D. Kevin McNeir | 9/3/2014, 3 p.m.
In neighborhoods large and small, leaders of the black community continue taking steps to speak out against all forms of ...
Singer Raheem DeVaughn welcomed the crowd to the first "Black Men's Summit and Town Hall Meeting" and discussed its specific goals on Aug. 21 at The Temple of Praise in Southeast. Photo by Roy Lewis

In the wake of events like Ferguson, Missouri and Sanford, Florida, it has become more than apparent that the lives of young black men in the U.S. garner little respect, almost akin to disposable commodities.

However, beyond the glare of the cameras, in neighborhoods large and small, leaders of the black community continue taking steps to speak out against all forms of injustice while preparing youth for the inevitable confrontations they will face with law enforcement officials.

“It’s time that we started showing our youth that there are plenty of black men who are doing positive things in their lives – for their families and communities,” said Raheem DeVaughn, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter who recently launched his nonprofit organization, “The LoveLife Foundation DMV.”

The foundation’s mission – to improve lives through social development, education, health and wellness by partnering with community organizations and other foundations to raise awareness and tackle issues impacting the black community.

DeVaughn convened the Black Men’s Summit and Town Hall Meeting on August 21 at The Temple of Praise in Southeast where more than 100 people came out to address some of the pressing concerns facing their community and to discuss possible solutions. Journalist Roland Martin moderated the summit.

“I thought that for a first attempt the event went well but I would have liked to have had more young brothers in the place,” DeVaughn said. “We have to get our foot patrols out in the streets so that harder to reach youth know we’re here for them. If our work is going to matter, we have to hear from youth so they can tell us what concerns them, what fears they have and what they believe they need to survive,” said DeVaughn who formed his foundation about six months ago.

Panelists for the summit included: Pastor W. Lamar Staples; Pastor Jabari Douglas; the Rev. Dr. George E. Holmes; Jeff Johnson; the Rev. Lennox Yearwood; Ron Busby, Sr.; and Tony Lewis, Jr.

One man from Northwest said collaborative efforts like the summit must continue so that the different skills and talents of citizens can be shared with the entire community.

“My group, Sons of Life, has been providing mentorship to youth whose parents are incarcerated since 2010 – now with Raheem’s foundation we can take our programming and initiatives to the next level,” said Lewis, 34. “Collectively, we’ve fed over 300 men at the New York Avenue Men’s Shelter and provided school supplies for children. I’d like to see us take on the issue of youth homelessness next,” said Lewis, a resident of Northwest whose father has been in jail for most of Lewis’s life.

One panelist said blacks must stop listening to the rhetoric that castigates the black community.

“We have to stop believing the deliberate lies that are being told about our people – black men are active in their children’s lives and more black youth are in college than in prison,” Johnson said. “Presence matters and is what our youth need. But you can’t do in the game [of life] what you don’t do in practice,” said Johnson, a D.C.-based award-winning journalist and social activist.

Another panelist who has contributed many hours on behalf of blacks in the Metropolitan Washington Area said policies must be changed so that relationships can be more easily forged between black men and their children.

“We have broken men both in the streets and in the suites,” said Yearwood. “Black men want to take more responsibility but they often come against a family court system that attacks both the black male and the black family and is designed to break families apart. We need to focus on changing the existing policies.”

From the faith community came words about returning to the foundations established by the Christian Bible.

“Our marching orders are quite simple and it’s not magic,” Staples said. “We deal more with what feels good instead of relying on God and being obedient and faithful. We’ve tried it our way – it’s time to try it God’s way. And even when things don’t materialize right away, we need to understand that blessed delay doesn’t mean blessed denial.”

DeVaughn’s foundation plans to hold a fundraiser for breast cancer in October that will feature classic cars tailgating throughout the District. Go to www.lovelifefoundationdmv.org for more information.