The BMDS Story:
The Black Male Development Symposium (BMDS) was initiated by the leadership of Chicago’s Third World Press, one of the oldest African-American publishing houses in the United States.
The venue was established as a national tour that promoted community discussions on the plight of African American Males (AAM). The symposiums were held in Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Detroit, MI; Harlem, NY; St. Louis, MO; Birmingham, AL; Atlanta, GA; Minneapolis, MN; Memphis, TN, and Little Rock, AK. The first Philadelphia symposium was held March 2004, as the community outreach project of the Annual Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education. The attendance at the first symposium was expected to be 300-400 attendees. Those numbers were surpassed when well over 700 people attended. The simple adage, “If you build it they will come,” continues to drive the attendance numbers of the symposium that now boosts well over 1200 during the annual event.
It must be noted that the Philadelphia symposium, to date, is the longest running and the largest attended BMDS event nationally. This is due to the continued and overwhelming support that the event has received every year and the sad and inescapable truth that African American (AAM) live at great risk and they, their families and communities are eagerly searching for strategies of survival and empowerment.
The Symposium provides a forum for practical solutions by providing presenters and interactive workshops to assist attendees in developing realistic intergenerational strategies and concrete recommendations that they can put into practice in their respective communities. The BMDS becomes a place of finding practical models of solutions and not just a forum for pontification and “drive-by conversation.” BMDS is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization under the direction of Executive Director/Founder Dr. Doreen E. Loury with Arcadia University as the host site.
The largest student group (69%) over the last eight years; African American males 12-15 years of age with the 16-18 age group ranking second at (18%). The largest ethnic group represented; African Americans (88%) and Latinos at (7%). The largest single grade group has been 8th graders at (29%) and high school students (9-12) being the highest attending combined group at (33%). Participants come from various neighborhoods in the city and surrounding suburban areas. In rank order (1) Olney/West Oak Lane, (2) Southwest/Germantown, (3) West Philadelphia and (4) Lower North Philadelphia. (Students from the Tri-State areas, DC, and Maryland have also attended)
The attendees run the spectrum of occupations with the top three being:
The symposium offers workshops under four (4) distinct areas that are presented by individuals/groups that are selected through a national competitive call for papers process.
The Pathways are Investigate, Create, Relate and Elevate and have the following focus areas:
Each workshop presenter conducts a 75 minute session that has a distinctive set of issues which are to be addressed during the session. The symposium offers a total of 30-40 workshops presented concurrently during the morning and a series of afternoon EDU-TAINMENT sessions along with our famous E’s BarberShop Talk; in honor of the late Philadelphia icon and civic leader E. Steven Collins who was a great supporter of the symposium and the first moderator of BarberShop Talk in 2012. BarbersShop session features real talk and real conversation among Black males in the tradition of that sacred space of the Barber Shop. New for 2015 was the Sister Circle which provides a safe haven for women to be honest about how they are feeling in relationships and how to have open and honest dialogue with the men in their lives. A Middle School Institute (MSI) is provided with workshops that are more closely aligned with the needs of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. A Parent Advocacy 101 Institute is offered and designed to assist parents and caregivers in learning new ways to help engage their children in homework completion, staying safe on the internet, positive ways to improve behavior, preparing them for the next level of school and providing them with culturally centered models for manhood and personhood development. The Professional Development Institute offers workshops presented by practitioners and experts in the areas of education, counseling, medicine, criminal justice and media. The goal of the Professional Development Institute is to reclaim the dreams of African American Males by providing resources and culturally responsive techniques that will work and close the opportunity gaps Black males are currently facing.
One of the major components of the symposium is the Author’s Pavilion which has hosted authors who also present workshops. Local and national authors over the years have included: Hill Harper, Dr. Randall Pinkett, Dr. Obari Cartman, Hotep, Summer Fitch, Eraka Rouzorondu, Baruti Kafele, Salome Thomas-El, Solomon Jones, Mister Mann Frisby, Kevin Powell, Valerie Harrison, Sheron Smith, Randall Horton, David Miller, Herman Pryor and Felicia Pride just to name a few. Each attendee receives, as part of their registration, a book in their packet from one of the Pavilion authors and is able to meet with them for book signings and discussion during the course of the symposium. Additionally, all books are on display and available for sale as well as books supplied by Third World Press, Say It Loud and Invision Publications.
Students ($30) and Adults ($50). The cost includes lunch, materials, a book from one of the featured authors and a BMDS t-shirt. The Symposium provides opportunities through our BMDS Scholars for Dollars Program for individuals and organizations to purchase scholarships for students who may want to attend the symposium but do not have the cost of the registration fee. Please visit our site www.blackmaledevelopment.com or call 215-572-8510 and see how you can become part of the BMDS Movement and the many ways you can support the project.