by Taki S. Raton
“Alone in the Storm: Why the Black Community Must Save Its Youth” will be the presentation theme of noted speaker and nationally certified school psychologist Dr. Umar Abdullah-Johnson on Thursday, June 21 at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, 2620 West Center Street beginning at 6 p.m.
Sponsored by BE the CHANGE, a program founded by Alderman Ashanti Hamilton in partnership with the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools and Running Rebels Community Organization, Dr. Umar’s Black Historical Society appearance will culminate a series of planned area activities noting the talents, expertise and the exemplar deep historical well of cultural, social, and developmental insights that he proudly, eloquently and admirably shares with African American communities across the country.
On Wednesday, June 20, he will conduct a closed session in service with the young men and staff of the BE the CHANGE program.
On Thursday afternoon, Dr. Umar and Alderman Hamilton will be guest on Earl Ingrams’ 1290 “The Evening Rush” broadcast from 3 to 5 p.m.
Dr. Johnson nearly a month ago was also the featured speaker for this year’s Afrikan Liberation Day Weekend on May 18th and 19th at the Milwaukee Brotherhood of Firefighters Hall under the sponsorship of the National Black United Front Milwaukee Chapter, AfrikanSpeak.com, Pursenality, and the Milwaukee Black Male Achievement Forum.
“Dr. Umar Johnson’s messages of each-one-teach-one and universal love for Black people are timely words for Milwaukee right now,” says Alderman Hamilton.
He positions in an interview that one of the fundamental challenges in our community is the ability for us to focus in on the essential elements of self-improvement and ownership of responsibility as the foundation for advancing our community.
He adds:“We were born with everything that we need to change the conditions in our lives and it is our responsibility to do so, now – at this moment.
“Dr. Johnson has the energy and is a perfect role model in his unapologetic presentation style to kick-start our community towards the vision of initiating viable solutions and inspire us with the mindset and vision to put in the necessary work and expect an outcome of positive change.”
Piloted in the summer of 2011 at Washington High School, BE the CHANGE is designed to serve adolescent African American males in Milwaukee by providing literacy teaching, rites of passage cultural training, work readiness and college preparatory instruction.
Divided into 5 groups of 15 each, the young men in the 2011 program had just completed 8th grade and were assigned to attend Vincent and Washington High Schools.
BE the CHANGE enrollees would be monitored and supported throughout the school season and for the entirety of their 4 year high school careers.
Certified MPS teachers taught the literacy portion of the program which utilized a curriculum developed by Dr. Alfred Tatum of the University of Chicago.
According to a program descriptor, additionally included in the instruction is the Brother-hood/Sister Sol Curriculum out of New York implemented by a staff of carefully selected Black males from various walks of life such as college students, artists, athletes, coaches, and role models and mentors for the enrollees, many of whom do not have positive Black male models in their lives.
As mentioned in their BE the CHANGE literature, the primary goal of the program is “not to ‘help’ the young men, but to empower them to help themselves.”
Initiative objectives include providing positive Black male mentors for the young men, strengthening the participants’ knowledge and understanding of their culture, improving academic performance, establish and promote positive peer to youth and adult to adult relationships, building positive social norms and behavioral standards, provide opportunities for life-skill development and healthy decision making in the arenas of health, finance, character, leadership and career development, provide college access and jobs training, and support the young men over the course of their high school careers.
According to Program Manager Cheryl R. Blue, “BE the CHANGE was founded by Alderman Ashanti Hamilton because as a Black man who was raised in the poverty stricken streets of Milwaukee, he knows firsthand how knowledge of self can absolutely change lives.”
Blue says that many young African American males are not successful in school because almost nothing in their school experience relates to them specifically, except in a negative way:
“In their schooling, our young people are not taught who they are and the rich cultural and historical legacy that belongs to them.
“But when you enlighten their minds with the words of Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Carter G. Woodson and Marcus Garvey; when you surround them with Black men who truly love them and are invested in their future, the light comes on in their minds and you see a complete change,” she adds.
The nation and particularly America’s Black community was introduced to Dr. Johnson as a result of his insightful comments as a participant in the April, 2011 release film “HIDDEN COLORS: The Untold Story of People of Aboriginal, Moor and African Descent.”
He is a blood relative of Frederick Douglas, the great Black abolitionist and orator and former Minister of Education for the Marcus Garvey Movement, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities League.
A writer, political scientist, and consultant to families, educators, mental health professionals and to charter schools throughout the country, Johnson currently hosts a psycho-educational community lecture series at the African-American Museum in Philadelphia.
This renowned orator is considered to be one of the most popular faces and voices on the east coast focusing upon the proper education and development of African and African American children.
With a speaking style that many consider “reminiscent” of his late ancestor, Frederick Douglas, Johnson is cited in many published accounts as “a fast rising star in the field of Black psychology and education.
In his child therapist capacity, he specializes in working with at-risk, violent, suicidal and depressed African American boys and girls.
Over the past five years, he served as the youngest of five African-American male school psychologists in the Philadelphia School District, the 5th largest public school district in America.
He has received commendations for his volunteer work throughout the Pan-African community, and has been a featured guest on various Black talk shows throughout the United States.
Johnson is a highly sought after motivational and informational speaker who has presented at workshops, conferences, awards ceremonies, graduations and expert panels throughout the country.
Dr. Johnson is founder and Chief Scout Master for the Emmett Till, Hector Peterson and Scottsboro Boys Pan-African Boys Scouts Program and the Queen Nzinga, Harriet Tubman and Birmingham for Pan-African Girl Scouts Program, both of which are independent African mentorship programs for youth.
The June 21 speaking engagement is free and open to the public. For further information, please call (414) 751-0169.
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