Larry Smith

On Saturday, Aug. 8, African American men and boys of all ages will gather on the grounds of the Indiana Statehouse to participate in the inaugural “Strong Men, Strong Minds Empowerment Rally.” The convening will take place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

As the title suggests, the rally is designed to empower, educate and encourage Black men and boys. Specifically, its purpose statement is as follows: “The mission of Strong Men, Strong Minds is to work diligently with and on behalf of Black males of all ages in Central Indiana. We endeavor to facilitate their mental, emotional, physical and intellectual development to prepare them to lead the world.” 

Several weeks ago, city-county councilman Keith Graves and I had a discussion regarding the crises that Black men and boys are facing in Indianapolis — one of several times that we have done so. We decided to take a number of actions, including enlisting other men who share our commitment to being action- and solution-oriented. The rally is one result of that discussion. 

In addition to councilman Graves and me, the other organizers are: James Garrett and Kenneth Allen, executive director and board chair, respectively, of the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males; Dr. Clyde Posley, pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church; and Robert Shegog, president and COO of the Indianapolis Recorder. 

The rally will feature speeches from a group of dynamic leaders who will address such topics as economic empowerment, educational attainment, fatherhood and how to de-escalate conflict in Black communities, among other highly relevant topics. 

Why Black men and boys? Or, more specifically, why not Black women and girls? The short answer is that it’s a question of focusing on Black males as opposed to a lack of concern for Black females. Personally, I have a son and a grandson whom I love deeply. I have lived most of the experiences that they will face as they become Black men. I am equally concerned about the myriad challenges that my two daughters face (despite the fact that one of them is an adult). 

This particular rally is of, by and for Black men and boys. We highly respect and value our female counterparts, and we recognize them as equals. In no way do we intend to minimize the unique challenges that Black women and girls face. However, we are not equipped to conduct a similar event on their behalf.

Consider the following example. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), as far as I know, has never sponsored a campaign to raise awareness of child abductions. Driving under the influence and the kidnapping of children are both very important societal challenges. The fact that MADD focuses on the former rather than the latter does not diminish the urgency and appropriateness of its mission. (Incidentally, Black-led organizations are expected to address all challenges that their community faces, which is not true of white-led organizations. This line of “thinking” is increasingly leveled at Black Lives Matter, which was not created to address what is often labeled as “Black-on-Black crime.”)

In planning the rally, the organizing committee thought carefully about which leaders are best equipped to speak to the topics that we identified. Among those leaders is Minister Nuri Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, who will offer an address regarding the historical and contemporary roles that Black men have played. Nathan McGuire, MFT, will discuss techniques regarding how to reduce violence in Black communities. Camishe Nunley, LMHC CTS, will discuss “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.” These and other leaders will speak to the hearts and heads of Black men and boys, thereby encouraging them to identify and deploy their unique talents in creating a better reality for future generations. 

It is important to note that this is not a one-time event. One of the possibilities that we’re considering is developing Strong Men, Strong Minds into an organization. While attendees are not required to register in advance, we ask that they consider doing so, as this will assist the organizing committee in planning. Those who wish to do so may register or get more information on the Facebook event page.

Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at larry@leaf-llc.com.

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