At first glance, you would see young African-American men in casual dress, some wearing hats and some that give the impression of an introverted demeanor – until introductions begin.
Each participant in the Beyond the Bricks (BOTB) Community Producers Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff gave their name, school they attend and aspirations in life and had to answer questions from their peers about it during the group’s first meeting.
Leroy Brown, spring 2011 UAPB graduate and instructor for the program, was interested in BOTB because of its teaching aspect. With plans to pursue a master’s degree in English education, the program was a perfect fit.
“I see it as a great opportunity,” said Brown. “It is a way to give back and enhance the minds of young African American males.”
Brown said that he ultimately hopes the participants realize their potential.
“They’re at a great stage [where] they can go in any path they want,” said Brown. “But it will take hard work and dedication.”
The topic of discussion was a presentation by Chimamanda Adichie, entitled, “The Danger of a Single Story.” In-depth discussion commenced between participants of the program and members of Black Male Achievers, a student organization at UAPB. An articulate exchange between these young men occurred that was miraculous to watch – they were beginning to understand the importance of telling their own stories.
Cameron Williams, senior English non-teaching major and member of the Black Male Achievers, was particularly vocal in expressing his views and encouraging the participants to strive for the best. One of the members of the student organization that will serve as a mentor to the participants, he mirrored Brown’s comments and hopes they will gain a sense of empowerment and self-worth.
“I’ve had help and I feel like it’s my responsibility to give back,” Williams said. “They can become the change they want to see in the world.”
For more information about the Beyond the Bricks Community Producers Program at UAPB, call 870-575-7063.