March 30, 2010
by Gregory A. Dear, Jr. '10
On January 7, 2010, the Minority Student Union sent six Hampden Sydney students and Dean John Ramsay ‘05 to the National Black Student Leadership Development Conference (NBSLDC) in Vienna, Virginia. Sophomores Ray Romero and Ibn Salaam, juniors Michael Ware and Jay Artis, and seniors Gregory Dear and Bruce Lewis were inspired by the speakers and workshop facilitators.
This year’s conference marked the 25th anniversary of the NBSLDC and the theme was “A Circle of Hope: From Vision to Reality. ” Dr. Carroll F.S. Hardy, the woman behind the vision, stated that the conference “recognizes and celebrates what African Americans and other persons of color have accomplished.” Her key message was that “we must realize that differences do not have to make us enemies.”
This event was not just for African-American students from across the country, but for all students who wished to achieve their goals and realize their aspirations. The conference included poetry sessions, talent shows, professional workshops, and self-improvement workshops. The most notable workshop, entitled “Achieving Your Personal Best,” was that of Black Entertainment Television’s (BET) political motivator, Jeff Johnson. Johnson stressed how important it is to be comfortable with yourself prior trying to showcase your talents in the professional world. He explained that there is much more to an individual than just his or her resume - “Be your personal best, and not just your professional best.”
Other activities at the conference included meet and greet sessions. These took place at the end each day; students and adults would gather in a banquet hall to reflect on the earlier sessions and to share ideas for possible new ones. Another activity that is worth noting was the closing banquet. The dinner opened with a gospel choir performance that blew everyone’s minds and wrapped up with a very inspirational address by Michael A. Blake, who shared his life experience as a leader. Blake, one of President Obama's Talented Ten, currently works in the White House as the Deputy Associate for Intergovernmental Affairs.
Today, in a world of uncertainty and turmoil, conferences like this provide needed guidance to college students and also serve as a major networking tool to keep in touch with one another or strengthen friendships. The college experience can be a rollercoaster of confusion, emotional stress, and self-doubt. However, with the right motivation and the proper instruction, the college experience can be the most self-empowering experience of one’s life.
Empowering students and instilling courage in their lives is an important community service. When one shares an experience so that students can learn from it, he or she helps the community and the country. The messages of self-acceptance, self-appreciation, and self-realization we heard at the National Black Student Leadership Development Conference are important to the realization of our goal as Hampden-Sydney men to become, ”good men and good citizens.”