by Travis Henry
Black Men’s Collective hosted their “United as One” banquet on Sunday, November 1, 2015, celebrating unity amongst the multicultural organizations on Rutgers’ campus in New Brunswick, NJ. In order to promote solidarity the Black Men’s Collective collaborated with Douglass DIVAS, Rutgers Wanawake, I Demonstrate Educated Beauty (IDEB), and Rutgers NAACP while enjoying performances from the TWESE dance troupe, the Rutgers Belly Dancing Troupe, and Tim Olaloye, curator of Spoken Visions, who performed several spoken word pieces.
According to the United States Department of Education, the national college graduation rate for black men is 33.1% compared to 44.8% of black women. Surprisingly enough, there were more Black men enrolled in postsecondary education than in prison; in 2010, there were about 1, 340,000 black males enrolled in postsecondary education, whether that was vocational school, community college, 4-year school, or other, while there were 844, 600 black men in jail.
These statistics are important when we look at the celebration of black men and unity, and the need to push forward as a cultural identity throughout our community, which is what Black Men’s Collective does, and reinforces every year with their annual banquet.
The night concluded with dancing, but not before hearing speakers provide inspiring, educational, and motivating discussions about their stories and their current goals. Walter Forston, a Rutgers alumni and Founder of the Rutgers Mountainview Project, delivered the keynote speaker about why he started the organization, hoping to create a space for students who were once incarcerated to talk about the hurdles they encountered. “Coming to a college campus that has a buffer will hopefully help them build social capital and connection to open doors once they graduate” said Forston, who currently works for the PD Green Program and NJ Step. “I just want to stay on the right side of history with everything I do.”
In connection to unity, the power of change, and minorities, Samsodeen Barkare Korodo, a Rutgers class of 2015 alumni, opened up a discussion regarding the importance of personal branding, “Society will respect you if you portray yourself respectfully.” As a project coordinator at Grey Healthcare, he understands that dress and manner will be the deciding factors of perception. Before leaving, Korodo opened up his thoughts about the black community at Rutgers University.
The [Rutgers] black community lacks direction and seriousness. People think college is the end and they’re not laying the foundation for the future. This isn’t the end.
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Overall, the banquet had a great turnout. The Black Men’s Collective charged $5 for Rutgers students and $10 for non-Rutgers students, with a portion of the money going to Project Dental Africa, a non-profit organization fighting for proper oral hygiene “through means of education and empowerment.”
The Black Men’s Collective was an organization that introduced black men to events designed to support them because as the statistic stands, there haven’t been any more than 100 black men who have graduated from Rutgers at the same time, and
the purpose of the organization was to increase the graduation rate of black men at Rutgers. Alongside their annual banquet, BMC also tutors college students, welcomes academic advisors at their meetings, and mentors students from the first to third grade once a week. They are trying to stop the statistic because as it stands, there is a high secondary education dropout rate amongst black students in New Brunswick.