Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): First I would like to congratulate you on the upcoming Fourth Annual Smart’n Up Black Male Summit. What will be the focus/theme for this year’s gathering, featured workshops and speakers? Please share some of the format as well.
Deric Muhammad (DM): Thank you. The central focus is always “Smart’n Up”; a saying that encourages Black men and boys to make choices based on intelligence vs ignorance. A sub-focus this year will be “Redirecting the Spirit of Competition” in Black males. We will use the infamous Kendrick Lamar “Control” rap verse to lay a base about why Black males must become competitive again. I am concerned that our young people believe we live in a post-racial era and don’t feel the need to out-grind and out-think their competition. This is such a farce and we want to expose it. Black boys and young men have every right to be ultra-competitive. We just need to be competitive about the right things.
The format will be high energy, high impact and fast moving like always. I call it the ultimate Black male experience. We have some great workshops lined up. Imam Khalis Rashaad will be “back by popular demand” with his workshop on Entrepreneurship. “Coach Cliff” of K.I.N.G. Chess League do a presentation called “Chess for Success.” The great Pastor Eddie Deckard of Greenhouse International Church will do 3 workshops encouraging young people to “Wake Up!” And the dynamic Reginald Gordon of OG1 Outreach Program will deal with “Prevention Before Detention.” This year is set to be our best yet, God willing.
EM: What has the response been like from the previous summits up to date? What is your goal for this year’s summit regarding what the attendees will be introduced to and what you hope they will take with them at the conclusion?
DM: The responses from previous summits have always been feedback of gratitude. But at the same time calls for more programs like Smart’n Up that address the specific needs of young Black boys and men. It amazes me that Black males are at the bottom of every social category, yet there are so few programs that address our needs. The goal for this year’s summit is to make an impact on these men and boys in the most critical areas of their lives. We want them to leave with a heightened sense of self and a renewed focus to survive and succeed. Young Black males don’t need more charity. What they need is inspiration. God willing, we hope that some of them will leave with a mentor that they can call their own beyond November 23rd. And we plan to sign as many of them up as possible to Project FORWARD; a citywide Black male initiative that we’ve started recently.
EM: Some may say that this generation of boys and men are hopeless. How does the Smart’n Up Black Male Summit address the disparities those individuals may be implying to show forth a hopeful generation? What approach do you take with the young men?
DM: Those who say this generation of boys and men are hopeless are those that watch too much television. The news media, through the negative images portrayed on the nightly new, have successfully poisoned some of our minds against our own children. It is sad. At our summit the community is reminded that not all of our boys have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. They get to see positive male images everywhere. Even the “wanna-be-goon” is affected by the positive energy at the summit. Our approach is simple. We feed off of and feed into the nature of Black males.
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad teaches that our people are righteous by nature; unrighteous by circumstance. I am able to reach young Black boys, when given the chance, because they see in me somebody who sincerely believes in them. Lastly, my approach is based on my experience. I can identify with them because I have been under those circumstances before. My childhood was not ideal; not at all. I understand their pain. And just like someone saw the good in me and brought it out…I see the good in them and I pray God’s help in bringing it out. I think I speak for all of the other presenters, organizers and overseers of the Smart’n Up Summit.
EM: What is the next step for those who will attend the Black Male Summit? Are there and ongoing efforts and programs for them to be a part of to continue the growth and development as young black men?
DM: Well, every Black male’s circumstance is different. So everyone’s “next step” is different. Naturally, we would like for each attendee to apply the principles promoted at the summit. We want everyone to leave the summit better than when they came. Again, we have developed a citywide initiative call Project FORWARD that addresses the unique needs of Black men and boys in this city. Once they have signed up for Project FORWARD, they become a part of a brotherhood that represents the same principles as “Smart’n Up” beyond the black male summit. Anyone can sign up at www.ProjectForwardHouston.com.
EM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
DM: I want to thank everyone who has supported the summit in the past. It is you who have created the demand that has brought it back for the fourth time. We encourage everyone register at www.BlackMaleSummit2013.eventbrite.com. Thank you.