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Patrick Smith
IU Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development

George Vlahakis
University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, October 25, 2007

IU Men of Color Leadership Conference organizers plan to move 'from dialogue to action'

Event attracts students from five states, historically black colleges

Oct. 25, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Organizers of Indiana University's Men of Color Leadership Conference are hopeful that they will empower others to become agents of positive change in their communities.

Bakari Kitwana

Bakari Kitwana

"We're moving from dialogue to action," conference chair Patrick C. Smith said of the event, which is now in its fourth year. "The entire conference is designed to truly empower the participants. This year, there's an expectation that participants will leave with practical information that they can implement in their institutions, agencies, their communities or even their homes."

The student-founded conference taking place Nov. 9-10 (Friday-Saturday) is committed to uniting African American, Latino, Asian and Native American men in Indiana and elsewhere by providing a platform and a venue for effective dialogue and leadership development.

In addition to students from IU campuses, participants expected to attend will represent universities such as Purdue, Indiana State University, Ball State University, Ivy Tech State College, Eastern Illinois University, Michigan State University, Central Michigan University and two historically black colleges -- Morgan State University of Baltimore, Md., and Savannah State University in Georgia. In addition, the Monroe County Community School Corp. will send students to participate as well.

The conference's theme this year is "Political Education for Social Change: Moving from Dialogue to Action." Smith, who also directs IU's Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development, said the Men of Color Leadership Conference has been redesigned to place more of an emphasis on a project-based, results-driven approach.

"For the most part many conferences are dialogue driven, and at times they can be very emotional," he said. "That isn't to say that the information that they provide isn't credible or isn't important, but there needs to be more of a focus on implementing results in our communities after the event is over."

Among the speakers will be Bakari Kitwana, co-founder of the first-ever National Hip-Hop Political Convention. Kitwana is the author of several books, including The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture (Basic Civitas, 2002), and is the former executive editor of The Source magazine. He also writes a column on hip-hop and youth culture called "Do the Knowledge" for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He has been an adjunct professor in the political science department at Kent State University, where he taught a course entitled, "The Politics of the Hip-Hop Generation."

Rep. Vernon Smith, Dist. 14 Gary, IN

Rep. Vernon Smith

Other conference speakers will include State Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary), an associate professor of education at IU Northwest who previously served 18 years as a city councilman in Gary before being elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1990.

While the issues being discussed pertain primarily to men of color, Patrick Smith said he encourages anyone to attend, including women, so everyone can see how challenges are being pursued in a positive manner.

"This event provides us with an opportunity where we can learn from each other by becoming familiar with the issues that confront us," he said. "Once we become familiar with those challenges, then we have a common basis where we can put our minds together to constructively create solutions."

The Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development is sponsoring the conference. Other conference supporters include the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, Groups Program, Hudson & Holland Scholars Programs, 21st Century Scholars, the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, Kelley School of Business, the School of Library and Information Science, the city of Bloomington and the Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center

Most of the events will take place at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center

Print-Quality Photo

The conference will begin on Nov. 9 at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, 275 N. Jordan Avenue. High school sessions start at 9 a.m. There will be pre-conference activities for college students beginning at 4 p.m. with a graduate panel discussion, followed by Kitwana's keynote address beginning at 6 p.m. It will continue the next morning at 8 a.m. with remarks by Rep. Smith, followed by three business sessions.

The deadline for registration is next Nov. 2. The fee to attend the conference is $50 for university and community professionals, $25 for college students and $15 for high school students. One-day registration is $15. Sponsorships are available for IU Bloomington students. Interested students should contact the Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development at 812-855-8850. The fee includes all conference materials, the opening reception, breakfast and lunch, and materials. There will be no onsite registration.

To register and for complete information, go to

Editors: Media interviews are available with Patrick Smith and the conference presenters. For more information, contact George Vlahakis at 812-855-0846 or or Smith at 812-855-3540 or