Leenika Belfield-Martin & Chelsea Harrison | Staff Writers
From left, Roland Martin, DJ Envy and HU President Dr. William R. Harvey
Hampton University’s 40th Conference on the Black Family kicked off on Wednesday, March 14, with a keynote address given by journalist Roland S. Martin.
The School of Liberal Arts and Education hosted this year’s conference with the theme of “A Spotlight on Strong Black Families: Faith, Identity and Community.”
Martin shared personal anecdotes from his childhood, marriage, family, and career, including how he handled certain family issues. He also addressed the importance in growing the Black community:
“You have to ask the question: What am I prepared to do when we talk about the black family?” Martin said to the audience. “Every time we have a discussion about the Black family, we love to have it in a third-person or an across the town, otherly conversation as opposed to a bowling down your alley or sitting in your pew.”
Martin is a renowned journalist who is best known for his contributions as the host of the first daily morning show to focus on news, politics and other topics from the African-American perspective.
Although he and his wife have no biological children of their own, they both helped raise Martin’s six nieces.
The younger audience members were reminded by Martin that their actions will affect the future of the Black community.
“Every decision in terms of who you date, who you sleep with, who’s in your circle of friends, where you work every single decision will determine whether or not the black family will grow stronger,” said Martin.
Hampton’s Conference on the Black Family began after 10 judges from across the nation, including Judge Joe Williams, approached President Dr. William R. Harvey about the declining state of black couples. Hampton University hosted its first Conference on the Black Family in March of 1979.
“We need to make sure we can do what we can to enhance our communities.” Dr. Harvey said when speaking about the history of the conference.
Dr. Harvey’s family was recognized that night as the black family being honored this year. The School of Liberal Arts and Education also dedicated a reading room in Eva C. Mitchell Hall to Mrs. Norma B. Harvey, for her dedication to young people’s future.
In its second day, the conference focused on a variety of topics including social injustice, mass incarceration, the integration of church and state, education, and relationships within the black family.
Students drew attention to the conference through social media hashtag #CBF40; their use of this hashtag also highlighted their excitement and eagerness to hear from speakers like DJ Envy from the Breakfast Club Morning Radio Show and his wife, Gia Casey.
Additional prominent speakers like Kenneth Hardy, Dr. George Woods, Dr. Kermit Crawford, Dr. Richard Masson, Joshua DuBois, Dr. James Braxton Peterson, and the neo-soul duo Kindred the Family Soul were also featured.
The goal for the conference workshops was to encourage young black people to use their voices to bring change to generational struggles.
During his presentation, Kenneth Hardy spoke of these necessary measures, encouraging students to “Show up, stand up, and speak up.”
“Do not surrender to apathy. Do not buy into individual achievement. Have a voice and exercise your voice. Each day ask yourself what are you doing to uplift our people?” Hardy said to the packed room of transfixed black attendees.
The first full conference day ended with a seminar titled “Relationship Goals: A Glimpse into Real Black Love,” where the highly anticipated DJ Envy and Gia Casey spoke on expectations and reality within African American relationships.
Phones lit up the Student Ballroom as almost all who attended captured memorable moments of the guests’ appearances and words of wisdom.
From the consistent overflow of attendees to the roaring applause, the second day of the Black Family Conference was one for the books.
The last day of the conference ended with a morning seminar led by speaker Dr. Ronald Mincy followed by a noon luncheon where Dr. Fredrick Hayes III closed out the three-day event with a talk on “Bringing it Together: How Faith, Culture, and Resilience Can Lead to Community Activism.”
Overall, the events were well received by all who attended, and many students cannot wait to see what the next year’s program will entail.
London Douglas, a Strategic Communications Major from Maryland, stacked her cellphone camera roll with video clips of the events, saying that she had to “keep a few of the memories for her books.”
“The things they were sharing and teaching are things we as students and African Americans need to remember. Who knows when I’ll need to hear their words again to help me get through tough times or times of confusion?”