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Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

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In the Community

At the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Youth Summit on Friday, June 7th, an event focused on advancing pathways for success and methods of empowerment for young Black males in the Boston Public Schools (BPS), more than 150 students received advice from speakers, including Mayor Michelle Wu, and practiced valuable life skills like dressing for success, financial empowerment, entrepreneurship and innovation and technology.

Through a wide-ranging community partnership of Emmanuel College’s Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (CDEI), the City of Boston’s Office of Black Male Advancement and the BPS Division of Student Support, this year marked the second annual event, but first time as host for the College.

The story of how Emmanuel came to host this year’s summit began with connections between Emmanuel and BPS from more than 10 years ago.

When deciding on a venue for the MBK summit, Branden Miles, the Office of Black Male Advancement’s Policy and Research Manager, recalled his fond memories of attending youth empowerment programs at Emmanuel College as a student at Brookline High School.

“It’s very serendipitous,” Miles said, to now have this “perfect partnership” between the Office of Black Male Advancement and Emmanuel College. He said it felt surreal to be back in the same hallways he was in more than 10 years ago, prior to when he graduated from Brookline in 2013. Back then, he added, Miles participated in similar events focused on building financial literacy, maintaining relationships, dressing for success and more.

Back at Brookline is where Miles formed a relationship with Dr. Keith Lezama ’07, Emmanuel’s Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion/Chief Diversity Officer, and has known Dr. Lezama since he was 13 years old. “Keith paid it forward [for me] – now it’s amazing to be back [at Emmanuel] and doing the same – he was an instrumental part of my success,” Miles said.

Dr. Keith Lezama addresses Boston Public Schools students at the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Youth Summit on June 7th.

Seeing the impact that visiting Emmanuel College still has on Miles years later shows just how impactful it is to welcome students onto college campuses, Dr. Lezama said.

“It has an impact on their psyche – seeing great role models that look like them, continuing that work to let them see college campuses, seeing that Emmanuel was a place of empowerment,” he added.

Dr. Lezama said it’s difficult to describe the feeling of seeing many of the young men he’s mentored – like Miles and Ailson Carvalho, Program Manager at “Young Man with a Plan” – now working as mentors and role models for Boston’s future generations of Black men.

As a speaker on one of Friday’s panels, Carvalho passed that message of mentorship on to the students in attendance, sharing why it’s crucial for them to also become role models themselves: “as adults, we have a responsibility to give you the tools for success because we’ve been there [in your shoes].”

Forging these relationships between the City of Boston, BPS, local youth empowerment organizations and Emmanuel’s CDEI is one of the CDEI’s four tenets, and a crucial piece of its mission to create positive and effective change.

“For us to partner with the City of Boston and have over 150 Black men here is a testament to who we are and where we want to be as an institution."
 

Dr. Keith Lezama, Emmanuel’s Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion/Chief Diversity Officer

Through events like the MBK Youth Summit, the Office of Black Male Advancement focuses on improving outcomes and removing systematic barriers for Black men and boys in Boston. MBK is a national initiative started by President Barack Obama in 2014 and aimed at addressing opportunity gaps across the country. Boston’s chapter tackles higher education, mentorship, STEAM and community-based organizational funding.

“The Office of Black Male Advancement is excited to partner with Emmanuel College and Boston Public Schools. My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) was started on a national scale by President Barack Obama and we are excited to address pathways to success, methods of empowerment and work together on this here in Boston,” the Office of Black Male Advancement shared in a statement.

Mayor Wu attended the summit and emphasized the importance of the partnerships between the City of Boston, colleges like Emmanuel and the many local organizations in attendance and in supporting the future of Boston.

“We tell students – if you just work hard, you’ll go places – do good in the world and you’ll go far. A lot of us growing up know that the world is a bit more complicated sometimes. And when you look a certain way, when you come from a certain community, or you don’t come from a background where you have all kinds of connections, it does take having the people and supports around you,” Wu said.

Mayor Michelle Wu speaks at Emmanuel College on June 7th.
Dr. Joseph Cooper shares advice on positive affirmations with Boston Public Schools students.

Chief of Student Support at BPS, Cory McCarthy, highlighted the “cross collaboration” of all the different groups present on Friday to support the students, like “Young Man with a Plan” and “Becoming a Man (BAM).”

McCarthy said what he remembers the most from school is the folks that supported him to reach his success: “we have a crazy combination of many organizations in our city – it’s so powerful to be a part of. My hope for you all is to network – talk to these gentlemen in here who showed up for you all, talk to these women in here who showed up for you all.”

Students heard from many of those mentors Friday, including Dr. Joseph Cooper, Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Black Life at UMass Boston, who reminded them that daily positive affirmations will have a lasting impact on their lives. 

Students also received a demonstration on how to tie a tie from “Follow Suit Mentoring” – and were given the mantra “look good, feel good, do good.”

Volunteers learn to tie a tie with "Follow Suit Mentoring."

Emmanuel College President Dr. Beth Ross welcomed BPS students to campus encouraging them to pursue their dream, but “more than that, I hope that you leave here with two or three more new dreams, along with the sense that there is no obstacle that can prevent you from bringing these goals to life,” she said.

Incoming first-year Emmanuel College student, Damani Williams '28, speaks with Mayor Michelle Wu at the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Youth Summit on June 7th.

One student in attendance, Damani Williams ’28, will be returning to Emmanuel College in the Fall, where he will begin his college career as a first-year student. Williams said his graduation from Dorchester’s Burke High School the day before was still feeling bittersweet but he was glad he attended the summit and got the chance to network, learn from and connect with his mentors.

In the hallways where he’ll soon be spending his future, Williams said he was excited for his next chapter at Emmanuel and to “continue his dream,” of playing basketball for the next four years.

 

The event was also covered by Boston's WCVB Channel 5 News.