The August Wilson Center was full of family and friends on April 29 as 53 graduates of the Black Male Leadership Development Institute took center stage for a rites of passage ceremony. The moving program began with a tribute to the ancestors conducted by BMLDI faculty member Tony Mitchell, PhD. The names of the late Rex Crawley (program founder), August Wilson and Fannie Lou Hamer were called during the ceremony. Jahi Jackson, a BMLDI graduate served as a capable master of ceremonies and said BMLDI means fellowship and building relationships, and has helped to create a narrative different than what is seen in the media.
LaMont Jones Jr., assistant pastor at Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church delivered a thoughtful and powerful message as keynote speaker and reminded the group that “Black minds matter.” Jones said, “Black minds mattered when your foreparents found a way to endure and escape the whip, the chain, and the noose to become founders and leaders of churches, colleges, businesses and other institutions. You are their legacy. And as you mature from boys to men, it falls to you to receive your inheritance, build on it, and pay it forward. The mantle of leadership is passing to you.”