Adding to the toolbox: Takeaways from the Black Boys & Men Symposium

August 3, 2023

A contingent of Albion College staff members who attended this summer’s Black Boys & Men Symposium are making plans to share their knowledge with campus colleagues this fall.

The annual symposium at Grand Valley State University brings together hundreds of educators, youth service providers and community leaders working to create a vision for equitable transformation throughout the educational pipeline, from K-12 to higher education and beyond. Through discussion, learning and action, participants were able to understand and interrogate the “systems” that impact the lives of Black boys and men in order to deconstruct and rebuild for their success.

That intentionality is critical to Albion’s Vice President for Belonging and Culture Dr. Taran McZee.

“We took part in the symposium to get a better understanding of how to nurture, how to communicate with and how to support Black men at Albion College,” McZee explained. “One of the big takeaways from the symposium was enhancing the toolbox you already have.

“For example, if you have struggled to have conversation with Black males, you were able to get information on how to start a conversation, support that conversation and then follow up on that conversation. These are important things we are bringing back to campus to share with our faculty and staff.”

The three-day session allowed McZee and his colleagues to connect with like-minded educators from across the state, sharing leading practices in order to create the capacity for new and better outcomes. Central to the focus is the need to deconstruct and rebuild systems to create conditions for Black boys and men to be successful on college campuses like Albion.

“Learning how to support Black boys and men from a mental health perspective was another priority,” McZee said. “One of the presenters had me crying when he shared the story of being 18 and watching his best friend’s mother being shot and killed at his friend’s house. We heard a lot of questions from the adults on how they could and should have supported him.

“Some of the students coming to our campus have similar traumas in their past. What are we going to do to support these young men from a counseling and mental health perspective? How are we going to make sure Albion is prepared?”

Those who attended have continued meeting this summer to find meaningful ways to share their learning. McZee said a campus-wide survey on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is in the works for the upcoming school year.