Coming together to support the young

Staff Writer

The African American Alumni Committee of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration will host a discussion about young, African American males on Feb. 15.

The symposium, “Black Young Men in America: Rising Above Social and Racial Prejudice, Trauma and Educational Disparities,” will discuss how to effectively communicate and build relationships with young Black men, how untreated trauma impacts African American male adolescents’ ability to thrive in America and how the use of education can be a key to intervention.

The event will take place in the School of Social Service Administration building, 969 E. 60th St., from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include a keynote address by Rodney Walker, CEO of Forever Life Productions.

“This conversation has been a long time coming,” said Eugene Robinson Jr., chairman of the African American Alumni professional development committee and the organizer of the symposium. “The idea was sparked by the Trayvon Martin incident, the George Zimmerman trial and the trial’s outcome.

Robinson, who by profession is a college and career specialist at Bowen High School said young African American males also face academic challenges.

“Eighty-one percent of African American males in Chicago Public Schools have less than a 2.5 grade point average,” Robinson said.

Highlights of the event will include a panel discussion and workshops presented by Nia Abdullah, Kweku Embil, Elizabeth Kirby, Patrick W. Milton, Eric Williams and Catherine Whitfield, all from the Chicago Public Schools; Marshaun Bacon and Jason Story, Youth Guidance; Greg Gaither, Illinois African American Juvenile Justice Institute; Troy Harden, Chicago State University; Waldo Johnson, University of Chicago SSA; Kweli Kwaza, Talented Tenth; Sequane Lawrence, Center for Strategic Investment in Youth and Families; Laura Patrick, LEARN Charter School Network; Jourdan Sorrell, 100 Black Men of Chicago; Michael Sorrell, Paul Quinn College; Monico Whittington-Eskridge, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services/Chicago State University.

Monico Whittington-Eskridge, vice president of the SSA alumni board and chairwoman of the African American Alumni Committee, said the symposium is open to social workers, educators, policymakers grassroots organizations, faith-based organizations and all who feel they can contribute to the conversation.

“If we’re going to change outcomes for African American males we need key people at the table so we can discuss who do we need to talk to and walk out with solutions and collaborations in place that will lead us to our and next steps,” Whittington-Eskridge said.