to youth at HCC Summit
The Honorable Kweisi Mfume was the keynote speaker during
the 2011 Men to Men Summit, April 5-6 at The Centre at
Halifax Community College (HCC). This year’s summit theme
was “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” and Mfume addressed this
question and talked about the importance of male empowerment
in transforming the Roanoke Valley. This was the fourth
annual summit sponsored by the PRIDE of Halifax Male
Mentoring Program. There were an estimated 500 participants
for this year’s event.
Mfume is a former U.S. Congressman from Maryland and past
president of the national NAACP. He highlighted various
issues in today’s world including unemployment rates.
Although the reported overall unemployment rate is 8.8%
nationwide, it is 18% for the black community and 23% for
black men under 20 years old, reported Mfume.
“I know some of you came because you didn’t have a choice,
some of you came because you were curious and some of you
are here simply because you are trying to figure stuff out
and need moments and opportunities like this to do that,”
In his remarks, he acknowledged his past professional
accomplishments, honorary degrees he has received and boards
on which he has served. He also presented the story of his
childhood and early adult life, which presented a very
different picture from what one might expect.
Growing up, Mfume was the oldest of four children from a
placed called Turner’s Station outside of Baltimore, Md. “I
was born into a very poor community,” he said. The area was
across from a steel mill; it was segregated and poor and had
a lot of issues. “Nobody had anything, but everybody had
some love,” he said.
The family later moved to Baltimore. He had an abusive
stepfather who eventually left the family. His mother worked
two jobs. The closest person who resembled a father to him
was a man named Mr. Charles who later revealed that he was
Mfume’s biological father.
When he was 14, Mfume’s mother developed cancer and
struggled with that illness for two years. Mfume described
his mother talking to him each night during those years in
an effort to teach him about responsibility, race, and life
challenges. After his mother’s death, Mfume dropped out of
school and worked odd jobs. As he saw others around him
living the life he wanted and thought he could not have, he
He was recruited by a gang and lived that lifestyle for four
years. “I was empowered, but in the wrong way,” said Mfume.
“Everyone has that one person who’s in your head…Every time
you’re about to do something wrong, you see their face,”
explained Mfume. In the middle of a craps game, he heard his
mother’s voice, saw her face and knew that he had let her
down. He was 22 at the time.
Mfume prayed all night that night. He then decided to leave
the gang, but as he acknowledged, “You don’t just turn in
your resignation.” After several attempts on his life by
gang members, Mfume left that lifestyle.
He earned his GED and took a minimum wage job to provide for
his siblings. Then, he was accepted into a community
college. Although he was afraid he would not be able to
succeed, he finished the program and went on to earn a
bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. He was on his way
to law school when he decided to run for office.
“That’s what empowerment is. There were countless numbers of
men and women throughout my life who loved me more than I
loved myself,” he added. “We believe that empowerment has
got to be the real deal…I want you to do well. It’s a tough
world out there.” He encouraged people to help others and
give back as well.
Also during the event, the inaugural What a Passion—What a
Vision Award was presented to HCC President Dr. Ervin V.
Griffin Sr. for his work with the program.
“I’ve had some difficult issues to deal with all my life,”
said Griffin. “That is why we work so hard to try to provide
a venue for young men. This is a lifelong passion.”
Other summit guest speakers included Network Development
Specialist for Fathers in Focus Montre’ Freeman, PRIDE
Wellness Coach Wes Johnson, author and NC State University
Professor Dr. Bruce Bridges, and Reed LoRenzo Shannon.
||The Honorable Kweisi Mfume was the keynote speaker during the
2011 Men to Men Summit, April 5-6 at The Centre at Halifax
Community College (HCC).