Nearly 200 young Black men from Oklahoma City attended the first ever “Making of Men Summit,” inspiring them to overcome obstacles and be successful in life.
The “Making of Men Summit” brought the teens face-to-face with police officers for some tough discussions, in hopes of cultivating tomorrow's leaders. Dressed for success, the teens were exposed to an in-depth look at race relations in today's society.
Examining high profile officer-involved shootings with officers themselves helped both sides understand a different point of view. OKC Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora said, “I think it’s really important that cities be open and willing to have these conversations so that we can learn from each other and figure out, how do we bridge the cultural divide?”
The police department, school district and Believe, Inc., an organization dedicated to the development of young Black men, started planning this event last year. The organizations also recruited some high-profile NBA dads to share how they raised professional athletes.
“I had to be here to let these Black boys know that it’s a lot out there against them, but it’s a lot out there for them, too,” says Charles Paul, father of Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.
Paul said discipline was his best tool in raising his sons, but for kids without leaders in the home, people like State Representative George Young (D-Oklahoma City) have stepped in as role models. “We need to encourage these young men,” emphasized Young. “We need to let these young men talk to us and visit with us and see what can and what is possible for them.”
For some, the qualities of a leader are already starting to stick. Jordann Goodman is a junior at John Marshall High School, who shadowed Rep. Young at the Capitol before the Summit. He said, “Just to develop those skills early helps you along the way. For me, I’m using those skills when I go to school, when I go to work and while I’m practicing on the field for football.”
Paul said his experience speaking with the teens at the summit was so impactful that he plans to bring the event to North Carolina, California, and eventually nationwide.
The police department said they hope to expand the local program further to reach more teens in the Oklahoma City community.