With the theme “Stronger Together, Unstoppable,” this year’s 9th annual Black and Brown Male Summit at Highline College aims to give young men of color one message: persevere.
An expected 450 students will attend more than 10 workshops during the Saturday, Nov. 17, summit. It will feature special keynote speaker John Bunn, a man who learned to read in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a crime.
Director of Community Engagement Rashad Norris, who co-founded the summit with other Highline employees, said young men of color face many challenges growing up, from the makeup of their teachers and administrators, the majority of whom are white, to negative media influence, which often portrays young men of color in “degrading, generalizing or dehumanizing” ways.
“There are a lot of things trying to stop a lot of young people, so we chose the theme ‘Unstoppable,’” Norris said. “It’s not going to stop them from growth. We will not allow the music industry, the video game industry, the political industry, educational — all of it — that’s not going to stop us. We’re going to persevere.”
Black and Brown Male Summit committee member Jason Ramirez said as he listens to the experiences of young men of color in the community, he’s reminded about the importance of the summit.
“The summit provides an environment for young men of color to have courageous conversations centered on identity, masculinity, responsibility, self-control and education,” Ramirez said. “Moreover, the young men of color who attend the summit leave empowered, stronger, more confident and with an understanding that they control their life. This summit not only touches those that attend but it also touches the communities where these young men of color return to after the summit. The young men that attend leave as role models for the next generation.”
Norris said the committee chose Bunn as the keynote speaker not only for his message on the importance of reading and growing, but for his strength and resilience to overcome not just an obstacle but a “true barrier.”
Bunn was unstoppable as he learned how to read after being charged with murder at 14 years old. He was unstoppable as he fought for his innocence for 27 years and was finally exonerated in May 2018. And he continues to be unstoppable in his quest to help America’s 2 million prisoners through books and reading with his organization A Voice 4 the Unheard.
Norris said he and the committee take pride in the fact that the summit has never been a recruiting tool to get youth to go to school or get a job. Instead, they’re trying to build young men of color’s self-identity and confidence to help them be more aware of obstacles they may face, and to instill that those obstacles don’t need to stop them from being successful in life.
“When I was younger, as an African-American male, I would have greatly benefited from the Black and Brown Summit,” Highline College President John Mosby said. “This is an exceptional opportunity for these men to listen, be challenged, mentored and learn about their power and influence in our society.”
Mosby added he is grateful that Highline College has recognized the need for this summit and that it continues to model community, excellence and a student success–first philosophy.
For more information, visit the Summit website.