Indiana State Representative Dr. Vernon G. Smith, Ph.D., was the author of a bill to create the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males (ICSSBM) which next month hosts the Eighth African American Male National Conference in Indianapolis, IN. Indiana Rep. Dr. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary)
Indiana State Representative Dr. Vernon G. Smith, Ph.D., was the author of a bill to create the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males (ICSSBM) which next month hosts the Eighth African American Male National Conference in Indianapolis, IN.
Dr. Smith is a former Gary, Indiana city council member and now represents the Gary and greater Gary area in the Indiana State Legislature. He is an associate professor in education at Indiana University, Northwest. Steve Ingram is the assistant director of the Commission. In a Conversations with Al McFarlane broadcast phone interview last month, they talked about investing in Black males.
AL MCFARLANE: Dr. Smith, what is the Indiana Commission on African American Males? What's the mission and vision?
VERNON SMITH: Research was suggesting that the African American male is an endangered species. It was said that by the year 2020 we may find the majority of us in prison or the majority of us deceased as victims of homicide. As we're getting closer and closer to 2020 that prediction is not coming true, but we do find that we are an endangered species.
AM: Steve Ingram, what are your aims, and what do you want to accomplish in the African American Male National Conference?
STEVE INGRAM: We want to discuss issues affecting Black males nationwide: health, employment, education, social factors of criminal justice. We examine our education system with the intent of creating an education action plan that addresses the education of Black males.
AM: Dr. Smith, how can Black males and the Black community acquire power, share in the wealth of community and nation, and preserve its own identity?
VS: I think identity comes first. We have to know who we are. We must rediscover how to act like kings and queens. Only the strongest of the strongest of us survived that trip over from Africa to the New World. When we understand that we have the message of our Lord upon us, we will be as God intended us to be. Once we understand who we are, then we may begin to speak about power.
Many of us may think that we are the mice of the jungle. But we are the lions of the jungle. With understanding our true identity we become empowered. We come to understand there is a negative correlation between the people being incarcerated and their lack of education. There's a negative correlation with poor health, lack of employment and lack of education. In the judicial system, often with our lack of education we end up plea bargaining and that gets us into situations that will affect us for the rest of our lives. So empowerment is very important and it comes through education. And when you have power you have to know how to use it wisely, so they don't start taking it back from you. So we can get power, but we may not be able to hold onto it if we don't treat people right. To acquire power and build wealth we must be able to read our own documents, not depend on the white rulers to interpret our documents, otherwise we will not only sign away our rights, we will sign away our wealth because we're ignorant. That will continue to happen if we don't know how to read. It will happen if we don't know how to handle our own money. .
SI: African American Male National Conference is a beacon of hope. We're talking about a community that has suffered dramatically. Black males have suffered dramatically. We've all lost. But it's my belief that God will not bless us with what we've lost, but He'll bless us with what we have left.
Information about the National African American Male Conference 2007, October 18 - 19 is available at: www.in.gov/icssbm; or call 317-233-8849.