Campus & Community

Young students explore identity issues at Black Male Initiative Summit

Michael Acuna, aka ILL Se7en, speaks to the crowd at the Black Male Initiative Summit in April. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Michael Acuna, aka ILL Se7en, speaks to the crowd at the Black Male Initiative Summit in April. Photo: Wayne Armstron

At the annual Black Male Initiative Summit (BMIS), which took place April 29 at the University of Denver, keynote speaker Michael Acuna, a Denver-based hip-hop artist who records and performs as ILL Se7en, challenged all of the young men in the room to change the way they think about themselves in society.

With a dominant white narrative in our culture, Acuna told the assembled group of students from Denver-area middle and high schools, young black men have to work to establish a legacy for themselves.

Now in its seventh year, the summit invites young black men from Denver-area schools to come to campus for programming that promotes leadership, academic achievement and community involvement. This year’s theme was “I Am the Master of My Fate: My Legacy Achieving Black Excellence.”

Founded in 2010, the summit provides an opportunity for eighth- and ninth-grade students to learn about higher education and the tools they need to become leaders in their lives.

After Acuna’s presentation, the BMIS scholars broke into smaller groups to attend workshops on topics around social conditioning — how society conditions people to think and act in a certain way, how to deconstruct that social conditioning, and once it has been deconstructed, what should be done about it. How does an individual counter the narrative that dictates society?

“At the end of the day, each student creates an action plan,” says senior Mawukle Yebuah, BMIS co-chair and an international business major at DU’s Daniels College of Business. “The plan outlines how they, as individuals, can achieve excellence in school, their community, family and within themselves. It is important that excellence extends into in all aspects of life.”

“This was our biggest summit by far,” says Yebuah, who has helped organize the summit for the last four years. “This is the first year we have had over 200 students. There were a total of 300 people, including adults, speakers and coordinators. Our summit includes an adult track — parents and counselors, or anyone who works with and supports young black males, break off into their own smaller sessions after our keynote speaker.”

Yebuah, who attended Denver South High School, dedicated much of his senior year to organizing the event.

“I first got involved with BMIS because of my passion for social justice,” Yebuah says. “As a DU Puksta Scholar, my scholarship is focused on developing a social justice issue project. I established BMIS as the community partner for my project.”




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