Sankofa is an Akan symbol of the belief that the past serves as a guide for planning the future. It is this wisdom in learning from the past, which ensures a strong future.
– Carter G. Woodson Center
Time and time again, the adage has proven true that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Nowhere is this more salient than in the African America community and a fitting focus to mark Healing Brothers’ 10th annual Community Empowerment Through Black Men Healing Conference.
The two-day event is expected to draw capacity crowd attendance as co-founder Sam Simmons has again enlisted renowned, well-respected professionals from varied fields to address key issues on community healing.
Simmons, conference leader since its inception, reflects, “There are things that have changed, things we’re more aware of than we were 10 years ago — [including] the fact that we too often don’t address the trauma, the result of systematic mistreatment due to 399 years of abuse since we came here as Africans [that] were turned over time into what
[and] who we are now.
“The fact that we ignored that trauma puts us in a deficit position and a position where we traumatize each other, [because we are not] able to deal with additional trauma as it comes.”
He adds that many aren’t aware because it has become incorporated into what we consider to be culture. “The issue is that we have adapted, as a strength and a curse at the same time. We’ve done a great job of adapting. We haven’t always done a great job of evolving. There’s a difference.”
Day one presenters include Andre L. Johnson, president and CEO of the Detroit Recovery Project, and Champions of Change Award recipient, who will serve as a keynote speaker; along with panel moderators Curtis Marshall, Wisconsin public health consultant, who will lead a discussion on healing and safe community, and food justice advocate LaDonna Redmond, who will examine activism and racial healing.
Kasim Abdur Razzaq, counseling and social architect and author of the 5 Essential Principles for Healing Black Men and Raising Black Boys, will also deliver a keynote presentation.
“Kasim … is a really bright therapist who talks about young men and boys regarding their healing and being supportive,” said Simmons. “He has some real concrete ideas that can be put into practice. He was on a panel last year and I [was] so impressed by him I asked him this time to be one of the keynote speakers.”
There will also be a conversation around “Faith & Community Healing” moderated by Rev. Aledria “Lee” Buckley. In keeping with the Sankofa concept of taking the good from the past into the future, the discussion will look at the responsibility of church — a historic cornerstone — and its role in community healing.
“It’s critical to have a broader look at healing from a spiritual perspective,” Simmons explained. “Because of the church’s standing in the Black community, it has a vital part. Over the last 10 years, we’ve been talking about having people acknowledge the trauma. We now have to talk about more than recognizing trauma.
“What does healing look like? How [can] the dialogue change to move us to healing and not being enabled? Most young folk don’t believe the church has a significant role. We challenge that with the young voices, young pastors who are coming up, female pastors. New voices speaking [about] how to not just stay where we are and hope things get better.”
Activism, not routinely associated with the church today, dates to when the two went hand in hand. Plantation preachers’ sermons delivered such coded messages as “Swing low, sweet chariot. Comin’ for to carry me home.” which meant the Underground Railroad was on its way to pick up passengers — slaves about to escape.
“Once we get people, as youngsters say, ‘More woke,’ how do we effect change?” asked Simmons. “People become activists because of the pain they have experienced in the community at the cost of systems and organizations.”
Referring to movements like Black Lives Matter, Simmons relates that this generation is saying, “We not gon’ take no more. And they’re taking it to a whole new level, in terms of using the Internet [and] social media. It’s not just local, but ends up quickly being national. How do older folk support them, not overtake them and try to tell them what to do?”
Following the conference’s opening day, its organizers will also host the 13th annual Sons of Bransford Awards, which honors Black men that have had a positive impact in the community through leadership.
The conference will close on day two with a discussion on developing healthy communities moderated by WCCO television journalist Reg Chapman, and a keynote by Simmons.
Simmons, himself a highly respected behavioral clinician with nearly 30 years of experience, sums up, “We have the opportunity to build up the kind of community we want and you can’t do it without healing.”
The 10th annual Community Empowerment Through Black Men Healing Conference will take place Thursday, June 21, 9 am to 4:30 pm and Friday, June 22, 9 am to 12:30 pm at Metropolitan State University – St. Paul Campus, Founders Hall, located at 700 East Seventh Street in St. Paul.
To register or for more information, visit www.healingbrothers.com.