By Spenser Hickey
Assistant Copy Editor
Black Men of the Future provides a safe space for students of color to discuss common issues and works to educate the community about problems of racial inequality and stereotyping.
BMF was founded during the 1992-1993 school year, a time when African-American men were under-represented on campus, according to senior Andrew Dos Santos, co-president.
“[BMF’s] primary goal is to provide education and opportunities for engagement about issues concerning African-American men,” said Terree Stevenson, director of Multicultural Student Affairs.
Despite its name, Black Men of the Future is open to male students of any race, as long as they show “a sincere interest in the positive upliftment of black males socially, culturally, academically and politically,” according to their OrgSync page.
Sisters United, a similar group dedicated to promoting women’s issues, works closely with BMF, and members of SU often attend BMF’s meetings. Both groups are part of the larger umbrella group called the Student Union on Black Awareness (SUBA). SUBA includes other groups such as House of Black Culture, Rafiki Wa Afrika, Gospel Lyres and VIVA LatinoAmerica.
“SUBA serves as a larger institution, a larger part of representing minorities on campus, than these clubs,” senior James Huddleston, BMF co-president, said.
Huddleston said each club within SUBA serves a specific minority community.
“Our role is to work with male minorities, to be a support system, be an outlet, be a safe zone for males of minority,” he said. “It’s important for (minority communities) to work together, to support each other,” Dos Santos said. “We’re all, at the end of the day, going to be talking about mostly the same things, and hearing all sides doesn’t only elevate us as a group; it helps us educate other people.”
In its weekly meetings, BMF discusses a variety of issues including gun reform, racism on campus, upcoming events and “anything that’s on our minds, that we’re feeling that day,” according to sophomore Garrison Davis.
To help develop their discussion, members begin the meeting by listing the good and bad parts of their week.
At last week’s meeting, high points and low points included tests, studying, the weather and changing relationships.
In addition to providing a place for students of color to speak openly about the struggles they face as members of minority communities, BMF also works to educate the OWU community and provide positive role models for African-American youths entering college.
BMF regularly holds a presentation on Martin Luther King Day about the life of Dr. King. While it was well-attended in the past, this year’s presentation–BMF’s third–was not.
Senior Andrew Wilson, a speaker at the event, estimated that between 50 to 80 students actually paid attention to the presentation, which took place in Hamilton-Williams Campus Center’s atrium.
Sophomore Mariah Powell, president of Sisters United, said that “there were posters everywhere; people knew the event was going to be that day.”
Dos Santos said he believed the general feeling on campus was that the holiday wasn’t very important.
Members were divided on whether OWU should cancel classes on Martin Luther King Day so students would pay more attention to King’s legacy.
Freshman Aaron Cameron said he thought OWU should be more proactive about the day.
“It’s a holiday for a reason, and it should be celebrated,” he said.
Davis said he thought students still wouldn’t pay much attention to the purpose of the holiday, even without classes.
“I can’t blame the school, and to some degree I kind of agree with the school that we shouldn’t have the day off, ’cause kids really would misuse it,” he said.
Dos Santos said he would like to see OWU allow students to participate in community service during part of the day rather than attend classes, but doubted it would happen.
“That’s just me dreaming,” he said.
In addition to their frustrations over the presentation’s poor attendance, BMF members also questioned whether the overall community realizes they do other events, too.
“I think that a lot of these people on this campus are unbelievably oblivious to what the minority groups on this campus do,” said junior Madeleine Leader, vice-president of Sisters United.
Dos Santos said students forget the importance of minority organizations once their events are over.
“Any time you have an organization that does anything with food, that’s their event,” he said.
BMF, in addition to their Martin Luther King presentation, recently held a presentation on human trafficking, and will be holding events as part of Black History Month. The group has not yet released a schedule of those events.
In the past, Wilson said, BMF did “some huge events,” including a Teacher Appreciation Day and a lecture by Herman Boone, a high school football coach whose story is the subject of the film “Remember the Titans.”
“We made our presence known on campus, that we are an organization and that we do actually care about the institution itself,” Wilson said. “We’re still in that same (mindset) today.”
BMF also works in the “It Takes a Village” program, meeting and mentoring African-American students preparing to go to college.
“I feel like that falls directly under BMF’s role on campus and at large, just to give a nice black male perspective, which is not always seen or presented,” said senior Nginyu Ndimbie.
Huddleston said being in BMF has allowed him to get as far as he has in college.
“Coming into college, my priorities weren’t where they should be as a college student, and the older guys in BMF left a mark on me, made me want to focus on academics,” he said.