The My Brothers and Sisters Keeper program held its sixth annual Black Male Kwanzaa Summit on Dec. 30 at the Enoch Davis Center.
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The My Brothers and Sisters Keeper program held its sixth annual Black Male Kwanzaa Summit on Dec. 30 at the Enoch Davis Center. Held on the fifth day of Kwanzaa, the summit tackled the principle of purpose (Nia).
“I believe we all have a God-given purpose in life — something we were born to do, and you might not even know what you’re born to do. I thought I was going to be a rock star, but it didn’t turn out that way,” said Mayor Ken Welch. “But the things I’ve learned and the mentors I had in my life — folks like Vyrle Davis, Watson Haynes, my dad and my uncles — instilled in me what I had to.”
Master of ceremony Corey Givens, Jr. encouraged the audience to pause for a moment and honor our ancestors who survived the horrid trip from Africa as human cargo to toil in enslavement and those who fought for our rights as human beings in a country that viewed them as less than.
“We thank those folks who laid the foundation for us as Africans because, first and foremost, we are Africans,” Givens said. “We celebrate our roots, we celebrate Kwanzaa and we celebrate everything that makes us who we are.”
From Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, the City of St. Petersburg celebrated Kwanzaa in different locations. The first day of Kwanzaa honors Umoja or unity and was held at St. Pete Youth Farm.
Kujichagulia, or self-determination, marks day two and was hosted at Bethel Community Baptist Church. Day three, Ujima, which venerates collective work and responsibility for developing and preserving Black communities, was encouraged to celebrate at home.
Day four, Ujamaa, or cooperative economics, urges Black communities to invest in themselves. People were also encouraged to celebrate this principle at home with their families.
Day five, Nia, or purpose, encourages participants to find their purpose and help build and restore our communities. Besides the Black Male Summit, day five was also celebrated at the St. Petersburg Islamic Center.
The sixth day’s principle is Kuumba, which represents creativity, and was hosted by the Women of Black Wall Street.
The seventh and last day is Imani, or faith. We must have faith that our people will be victorious through the struggle. As in years past, the last day was held again at the Enoch Davis Center.
Motivational speaker and life coach Dederick Woodard walked the audience through the seven principles and the lighting of the candles with Carlos Daniels, Cohort of Champions program director.
“We’re trying to raise up the community, and we’re also trying to raise up more young men to be a part of our community,” said Daniels, who has been with the city going on 35 years. “What we got going on in here tonight must go further than these walls.”
Computer programmer and animator Kory Outlaw stopped by to encourage the young men in the audience. He urged them to invest in themselves.
“So, as you travel your journey, whether that’s to go directly to college or directly into entrepreneurship, invest time into your craft. I spend 12 hours a day on the computer. I run three miles a day; I walk, spend time with my daughter, my son, my wife, my family, and you guys.”
He encouraged the youths not to let anything or anyone hold them back from what they want to accomplish in life.
“I don’t know if it was the world or some guy in a room telling me that ‘Hey, you’re not a computer programmer because you’re not me, or you don’t look like me, or you don’t stand like me, or you don’t come from where I come from.’”
Once he shut that noise out, he knew immediately that he was enough, and his life changed.
LaShante Keys of Community EFX ended the evening by getting the men in the room to reveal their purpose, what makes them smile and other thought-provoking questions. The range of answers was heartwarming and indicative of the Black community’s love for its members.