Jackson: Get involved

Kara Hull and Kara Hull

Napoleon Bradford had hoped to pack the Union’s 276- capacity Theater last night. But the numbers for the last in a discussion series aimed at reaching black males on campus stayed small, with just under a dozen students attending.

Low attendance at the previous sessions of the eight-week series is indicative of the challenges facing black males at the University to get involved, said Bradford, executive director of Project Excellence — a tutoring and mentoring program that pairs at risk 3rd through 12th grade students from Toledo with University students — that helped sponsor the event.

The series, titled “For Brothers Only: Coming Together for the Purpose of Becoming Men,” drew 15-20 students each week, Bradford said. The Black Intellects Group and Student African American Brotherhood also sponsored the event.

But the students that did participate, Bradford said, are those who will take the discussions to heart and can already be seen acting as movers and shakers on campus.

“We’ve had an intimate opportunity to have a dialogue with concerned people, a group of people who really will do more than just talk about the problems,” Bradford said. “So many times since I’ve been [at the University] over the last four years that we’ve had these [type of] workshops … and the common denominator in all these programs is that they’re one day events that never do more than that, they never follow up.”

Last night’s talk, featuring guest speaker James Jackson, multicultural adviser and coordinator of diversity education and programs, was aimed at moving beyond discussion and into action.

“I think the most important thing for us is, basically, to put out money where our mouth is,” Jackson said. “You’re going to graduate…eventually you’re going to leave. And my question though is what are you going to leave? How are you going to make Bowling Green better than when you got here?”

But getting involved should be more than just adding another line to a resume, Jackson said. Students should look to the future to help younger black male students see that they can reach beyond their circumstances, he said.

“Besides taking care of yourself … what are you doing to help the next man behind you or the man sitting next to you?” Jackson said. “We are not incapable. You look throughout history and you look at any academic endeavor, you look at the foundations of math and science and you see people who look like us.”

BGSU isn’t alone in the challenges it faces getting black males unhooked from video games and into leadership roles as focused students with high GPAs, Jackson said.

So he still has to ask–why?

“Why are we the ones who are at risk? Why are we the ones who sometimes live up to those stereotypes that are out there?” Jackson said. “Why are we the ones who sometimes stereotype ourselves? Why is it that when it comes to writing lyrics, coming up with a phat beat, throwing a ball, catching a ball, we can excel? But then when it comes to school work … all of a sudden it’s like holy water to a vampire–we can’t do it. I don’t believe that we can’t.”

For senior Duane Hawkins, president of Phi Beta Sigma — a historically black fraternity on campus — the message of the series hits home with the struggles he and others face in getting guys to come to the events they plan. Hawkins is also the service chair for the newly-created BGSU chapter of SAAB.

“There’s a lot of organizations on campus, but there’s a need to get the black male population involved on campus,” he said. “All you can do is put on quality programs. It’s sticking your hand in and hoping for the best.”