Black/Brown Summit gathers 450
By Jo Robinson - Staff Reporter
Men of color can't succeed unless they stick together, said the keynote speaker at the Black and Brown Male Summit.
Modern rapper and spoken word performer Jason Chu spoke at the 8th annual summit last Saturday. Chu has performed at more than 170 colleges and around the world.
The summit was created for young men of color attending high school or college to be able to hear the stories of fellow men of color who are also students, professors, business owners, etc., and are able to share their own experiences in open dialogues, facilitated discussions, and identity workshops, organizers say.
About 450 attendees showed up to the summit, both students and chaperones. During this event, however, coordinators kept with the event's longstanding tradition of separating the student attendees from the adult chaperones.
While students were in group sessions discussing topics such as keys to achievement and intersectionality justice, chaperones were busy attending sessions such as the DACA Educators Forum, and Pulling Our Kids Out of the Fire of the Prison Industrial Complex.
"How we've usually had it is, adult chaperones will be in a different building, getting their own education. This has worked wonders in the past, and made it so everyone involved can speak their minds without fear," Rashad Norris, Highline director of community engagement and outreach services, and lead organizer of this event.
The portion that chaperones and students both saw together, was the keynote speech, where
Chu took to the stage and gave what he called the key to success, asking yourself "Who is we?" He described it in three distinct questions: Who is in your circle? Do you know yourself? Who is that you already are, that the world doesn't see?
"Let's start off with who is in your circle. A lot of times we get bamboozled into believing we can do it all on our own. We are taught from that point on to keep our circle that much smaller," said Chu.
Chu said that when his grandmother first immigrated from Thailand, she brought a fear of black people. He attributed this to American media's portrayal of black men as thugs, gangsters, and drug dealers.
"My grandma didn't think to include black people in her circle. She thought it was ok to not include them because she didn't need what the 'other' had to offer," said Chu.
Hundreds of hands raised in the air when he asked the audience "as men in America, who can say they've been taught: to be considered 'strong men' you exclude someone from their circle; whether it be women, or men of different skin as you, or sexual orientation?"
Chu said this is an impact of toxic masculinity, and that it's a hindrance to success, and that it threatens to his second key to success, "Do you know yourself?"
Toxic masculinity is defined as traditional norms and behaviors among men that include dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions, according to Wikipedia.
Chu said one negative impact of toxic masculinity is that, men are expected to never ask for help. He illustrated this point by telling the audience about his experiences travelling with his parents.
"My dad is always too proud to ask for directions. Driving in south Philly, my mom would say 'just ask somebody where the restaurant is,'" Chu said. "He'd be like 'nah, I got this'. So, we'd drive around for hours until he found the place. So essentially at this moment success for me was food, and it was blocked because he was too proud to ask for help. We could've got to the restaurant earlier, didn't though. We sat in that car."
He asked the audience to think about what it was that they had inside that would hinder them from an even greater success. Chu said all three questions really boiled down to his understanding that the most important thing in life is connections, and that understanding all of them will bring you to understand what you have to offer, and what you will want from those connections.
"Sometimes, it is the man, sometimes it's really the system, and sometimes you being too proud," Chu said. "If it's the last thing I mentioned, consider again 'Do you know yourself?' If it's the first two then consider who is that you already are, that the world doesn't see?"
"The world tries to tell you who you are and who you're not," said Chu. "The world tries to pop that crap on you, but you know, that's just fertilizer."