By Jesse Muhammad
Building upon momentum from being the host city to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the 14th Anniversary of the Million Man March, hundreds of men convened in Memphis, Tennessee for a day-long forum aimed at carrying on the resonating theme of accepting responsibility to build our communities.
Instead of just rehearsing the problems, the January 9 Mid-South Menâ€™s Forum brought together a wide spectrum of leaders to create tangible and executable solutions to the spiritual dross, economic disparities, educational deficiencies, and crime that is plaguing the Memphis and Greater Mid-South Black communities.
The closing keynote address was delivered by Student Minister Nuri Muhammad of Indianapolis, Ind. He spoke passionately about true manhood, the guidance of Godâ€™s Word and insight into the oft-repeated Lordâ€™s Prayer.
â€œMan should be working towards getting his daily bread by becoming an entrepreneur,â€ said Brother Nuri, whose message was received with multiple applauses. â€œWe should look at the Word as a script of life.â€
The importance of ownership was the common theme from all the speakers who made up the panel at the Ben Hooks Job Corps center. Demico Boothe shared his story of transitioning from serving 13 years in prison to now being an agent of change to halt young men from going down that road.
â€œWe are missing the Black love and this is what our children needâ€, said Mr. Boothe, who is the author of Why Are So Many Black Men in Prison?, a comprehensive account of how the prison industry has swallowed up his fellow brothers.
â€œWe have talked about the problems to death but we need solution-oriented and results oriented forums like this. We need to act before itâ€™s too late,â€ said Mr. Boothe.
In November, the unemployment rate in the state of Tennessee rose to 10 percent but saw the rate soar to 28 percent amongst its Black male population. Nationally, unemployment rate was just below 9 percent.
The top follow up plans for the forum includes the creation of a Loan Pool/Angel Investment Fund for Black and Hispanic business owners through a cooperative savings club; community canvassing to increase the presence of strong Black men in the most challenged neighborhoods; and the adoption of two under performing schools in the Memphis City School system to provide mentoring and support.
â€œThere is no greater enforcement than us enforcing ourselves,â€ said Grandmaster Anthony Muhammad of Chicago, who provided a self-defense demonstration. â€œThis is our community and no one violates this, less we violate them.â€
â€œA forum like this is important because so many of our people are lost. The more knowledge we have, the better we can do. Education is the beginning solution we have to our biggest problems culturally,â€ said Drumma Boy, a Memphis based music artist and producer.
â€œThe spirit of the menâ€™s forum was wonderful. Our goal is to continue motivating Black men to accept responsibility to build our own community. We plan to do what we say and say what we do,â€ said Tedarrell Muhammad, who heads the Nation of Islam Southaven Study Group and helped to co-organize the menâ€™s forum
â€œThis was a historic moment for Black Men in the city of Memphis and the Mid-South,â€ said Kareem Ali, co-organizer of the forum. â€œThis is a sign of Black men maturing and growing into a new mind and taking action steps to take responsibility to build our communities.â€
Other panelists included Bernal Smith, II (100 Black Men of Memphis, Inc), Reginald French (nominee for Shelby County Sheriff), Jeffery Higgs (CEO of Lemoyne Community Development), Thomas Burrell (Black Farmers Association), John Hall (Juvenile Intervention Shape Program), Ralph White (Bloomfield Baptist Church), Martavious Jones (Memphis School Board member), Dr. AJ Stovall (Rust College professor), Dr. Leon Caldwell (Rhodes College professor), and Van Tuner (Shelby County Democratic Party chair). A closing performance was delivered by budding rap star Young Phenomenon.
Read more about this forum in an upcoming edition of The Final Call Newspaper
(*Photos courtesy of Ziggy Mack and James Muhammad. Veronica Brown contributed to this article)