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A bright future in the hands of Black youth

Casey Thomas | 2/3/2014, 6:45 a.m.

The Dallas Examiner

I had the pleasure to attend the fifth annual African American Male Academic Bowl this past Saturday on the campus of the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson. This event each year brings teams of Black boys from across the state of Texas to compete academically to see who will be the winner. The categories that they choose from were math, science and Black history to name a few.

There are many things that I was impressed by but one thing that stood out was how confident each of the young men were before they went into the competition. As each team came out to be recognized, the drumline for my alma mater, Skyline High School, would play and the crowd of parents and attendees would cheer. You could tell that each team was well-prepared for the event.

After the teams entered the auditorium, the audience was greeted by Dr. Arthur Gregg, the director of the Multicultural Center at the University of Texas at Dallas. He introduced the president of the University of Texas at Dallas, Dr. David Daniel. Daniel expressed how important it is for the young men to be exposed to college life at a young age so they will feel comfortable being in the college atmosphere. He encouraged each one of them to strive for greatness and to continue to work hard and pursue their goals and dreams.

The next speaker was Dr. Wright Lassiter, who is the chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District. Lassiter inspired the young men by telling them that their future is in their hands. They control their own destiny and this should be a first step toward their journey to success.

The next speaker to give greetings was state Sen. Royce West. Before he spoke, it was pointed out that West has been a supporter of the event since its inception. He talked with the young men about taking advantage of opportunities that are offered to them and to embrace who they are as intelligent young men. As a member of the State Education Committee, West shapes policy as it relates to what students will learn and what will be required of them. His presence alone showed support and encouragement to the young men to continue to strive for success.

The last speaker was Clinton Johnson Sr., a franchisee with the McDonald’s Corporation. Not only does he own several McDonald’s franchises, his son is an owner and his daughter recently applied to own her own franchise. He spoke about the importance of hard work. He gave an example of how hard work made the difference in him having the desire and the ability to go into the franchise business and be successful.

After each of the speakers, the teams were led to the preliminary rounds of competition. While the boys were in competition, there was a panel discussion centered around Black males and the role that profiling plays in their lives. I was honored to serve as one of the panelists with men from a variety of backgrounds. We each shared our experiences dealing with law enforcement and how we have been able to overcome the challenges that face many young Black men in America. The audience was fully engaged in the discussion and was encouraged to participate.

At the end of the panel discussion, the finalists for the fourth through sixth grade competition were introduced and the championship round was moderated by Dallas ISD Board Trustee Mike Morath. The two teams were the Duncanville Tigers Youth Organization’s Black team and St. Phillip’s School Team C. The team from Duncanville won the elementary division. The middle school championship was between the Fort Worth ISD’s Young Men’s Leadership Academy team and the Duncanville Tiger’s Gold team. The team from Fort Worth were the winners. The winning team won a Samsung Galaxy tablet for each player and the runner-up received a Kindle Fire. The coach of each winning team received tickets to the Dallas Mavericks basketball game against the Sacramento Kings.

This was a very rewarding experience for me, especially because I was able to bring my two sons to the event. They were very excited about it and look forward to the day when they will be able to compete. After spending time with some of the young men who competed, I am convinced our future is bright and in good hands.