Black men in American have historically been taught that letting your feelings show is a weakness, and that message contributes to a host of negative results. That's the main theme of a summit called "The Black Man and His Emotions" set for Feb. 8 in the auditorium of Jesus International Ministry Network, inside the former Willow Run High School at 235 Spencer Lane in Ypsilanti Township.
The free event is co-hosted by Nate Frazier and Keyon Purite, local residents and hosts of the podcast "Heart to Hearts." The keynote speaker will be actor William E. Smith, who has worked as a stand-in on the TV show "Empire." Ypsilanti resident and community activist Bryan Foley will also speak.
"Men, and especially black men, are taught not to give into their feelings or show emotions or go see a psychologist because that's a weakness," Frazier says. "So a lot of African-American men don't know how to handle their emotions, and it can lead to violence and prison when they have nowhere to release (those feelings)."
Frazier says he secured Smith as the summit's keynote speaker after following Smith's YouTube channel, called "Us Crazy Christians." Frazier first asked Smith to come speak on "Heart to Hearts," and later invited Smith to speak at the summit.
In his speech, Foley will put the summit's theme in context by talking about the history of black men in America, from the time of slavery to the present day, in part as a nod to February being Black History Month.
"We know we have a problem with guns, and we know we have a problem with drugs, but at the root of that, we have a trauma problem," Foley says.
Organizers hope to draw at least 100 men to the event, Foley says. He says the event is aimed at black men in particular, but no man will be turned away. Foley says the organizers are planning a similar summit for women sometime in April and hope to launch a summit for families shortly after that.
On the night of the event, doors open at 5:30 p.m., with a free dinner served at 6 p.m., followed by the program starting at 7 p.m.
More information about the free summit is available at the Facebook event page.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bryan Foley and Nate Frazier photos courtesy of Nate Frazier. William E. Smith photo courtesy of William E. Smith.