Stories of resilience define black men throughout society, including many at Virginia Tech.

Tommy Amal, assistant director of student success initiatives, and other university leaders are on a mission to spotlight these stories.

For the third year, the Virginia Tech Black Male Excellence Network, coordinated by the Student Success Center, will host the Uplifting Black Men Conference. It will be held on Feb. 24 from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Inn at Virginia Tech.

The conference, “Resilient Beyond Measure,” is open to Virginia Tech students, faculty, staff, and others from throughout the region, including high school students and community members. Anyone, regardless of race or gender, can attend.

Registration for the conference ends Feb. 14.

Marc Lamont Hill, host of Black Entertainment Network News and a political contributor for CNN, is the conference’s keynote speaker. Hill is an award-winning journalist, author, social justice activist, and the Steve Charles Chair of Media, Cities, and Solutions at Temple University, his alma mater.

Another featured speaker at the conference will be Winston Samuels, a Virginia Tech alumnus and co-founder of Maxx Performance, a food ingredient, feed additive, and biotechnology company. Samuels is a supporter of the university’s club ice hockey team, and he is a member of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Hall of Fame.

The conference will include a variety of breakout sessions, including college admissions for high school students, black male health, and hip hop as a tool for mental health.

One session, “Allies & Advocates,” led by Brandy Faulkner, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, and Joe Frazier, assistant director for cultural and community centers, will guide non-black males on ways to support black men.

LaRhonda Johnson, a mentorship program coordinator for career and professional development at Virginia Tech, is chair of the conference committee.

Five Virginia Tech students will share their own tales of resilience during a morning leadership panel, facilitated by Sylvester Johnson, Virginia Tech’s assistant vice provost for the humanities.

The panelists are Seyi Olusina, a senior and the undergraduate representative to the university’s Board of Visitors; Jabari Byrd, a graduate student who is researching industrialized hemp; Lamont “Gucci” Livingston, a senior who won a 2017 Division of Student Affairs Aspire! Award for his dedication to completing his education while raising his young son; Ganesh Annan, creator of a website that compiles grade distribution information for university courses; and Darren Small, president of the Student African American Brotherhood and former chair of the Virginia Tech Student Budget Board.

“You want the undergraduates and high school students to see these guys,” Amal said. “They all sought out leadership and ways to help others.”

Overall, Amal said he wants the conference to help people understand diversity and resilience within the black community and to inspire meaningful action.

Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone

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