Men of Color Symposium

Photo of Men of Color Symposium

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend and give remarks at the Men of Color Symposium – the first of its kind in the state of Kentucky.

It would not have been possible without the important work of the individuals who made it such a transformative event – particularly Jason Brooks and Ja’Mahl McDaniel, and the entire team at the Martin Luther King Center.

I’d also like to thank Kirsten Turner, associate provost for Academic and Student Affairs, and Lance Poston, executive director for Inclusive Health and Campus Partnerships.

Their outstanding work is a reflection of the institution’s commitment to creating a more inclusive, equitable space for all, and it is so appreciated.

Wednesday was an important day at the University of Kentucky and, for me, personally.

For the first time, our Men of Color Symposium lived out the ideals of Lyman T. Johnson, the first African-American enrolled at UK who fought so that other diverse identities could have the opportunity to attend this great university.

The very fact we had the opportunity to discuss issues and solutions relevant to the success of men of color is extremely important to our campus and larger community.

I believe it’s something Lyman T. Johnson would be proud of – something we will carry with us moving forward and leave as a legacy for those who follow us.

The theme of the conference was “Building a Pipeline: College, Career, and Community” and is especially relevant today, as men of color are and have been historically underrepresented in leadership positions in academia.

Dr. Benjamine E. Mayes, the 6th President of Morehouse College said, “The tragedy of life is not found in failure but complacency. Not in you doing too much, but doing too little. Not in you living above your means, but below your capacity. It's not failure but aiming too low, that is life's greatest tragedy.”

Dr. Mays goes on to say “I believe everyone is born into the world to do something unique and distinctive.”  

At the symposium, we heard from renowned speakers and experts who enlightened and empowered everyone in the room to continue their efforts as change agents to positively impact the personal, academic, career, and community development of men of color.

We also heard from award-winning speaker, author and entrepreneur DeAndre Carter, who gave the opening ceremony presentation; hip-hop artist David “Olmeca” Barragan, who gave a performance during lunch; James Moore, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Ohio State University, who provided the closing ceremony keynote; and Roger Cleveland, professor at Kentucky State University, who also provided a closing keynote.

It was a remarkable day for the institution, and I’m confident it will lead to practical and actionable initiatives throughout the Commonwealth.