Annual Male Empowerment Summit Positions Students for Success

Male Empowerment Summit full

Bethune-Cookman University Acting President and Provost Dr. William Berry (far left) and Dean of Students Jermaine McKinney ('96, far right) pose with male students at this year's Suits and Sneakers empowerment breakfast.

Ten years ago, Bethune-Cookman University’s Dean of Students and Executive Director of Civic Engagement Jermaine McKinney (‘96) was struggling with the disparity between male and female student enrollment on campus. 

“When I was thinking about that gap, I was thinking – you guys are looking at it from the perspective of seven, eight, nine women for every male [on campus], but what it really was” was unfortunate, McKinney said.

At the time, he was over the university’s male development initiative and said he was trying to find ways to “empower our young men to be a better version of themselves,” he said.

And thus, the Male Empowerment Symposium was born. Held this year from April 15-17, the annual capstone initiative of the Student Affairs department is charged with bridging the gap when it comes to black males in college. The department collaborates with athletes and public figures from around the country to give the young men tangible examples of the success they can achieve if they stay the course.

“We are continuously doing what we can to empower them, help them build a network, connect the dots,” said McKinney. “Considering the back end of COVID and all that students have dealt with, it’s sometimes with young men, it’s hard to get the buy-in, there has to be a level of trust. Particularly African-American men who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, that trust has to be real, [it has to be] true love. People care less about how much you know until they know how much you care.”

This year’s events line-up kicked off with Monday, April 15 the Suits and Sneakers empowerment breakfast, which featured Dr. Charles Gibbs, CEO of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. and the Propel Center HBCU Consortium president in Atlanta, GA. Later that evening, the summit hosted a Barbershop Conversations panel, featuring leaders from the male Greek letter organizations, including Mr. Mark Jackson, first vice grand basileus of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Deputy Chief of Staff Mr. Britton Smith, Alpha Phi Alpha Beta Delta Lambda Alumni Chapter Mr. Chester Wilson, B-CU’s own Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Engagement and Southern Regional Director of Collegiate Affairs for Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Mr Leon Moody.

The next day, the men took to the Daytona Beach Municipal Golf Course for a day on the green that centered around the themes of growth, opportunity, life, and fulfillment. 

“It was an amazing day,” McKinney said. “Many of the students had never been on a golf course before, help them understand the power of networking, in terms of who you connect with on the golf course could change your life.”

The summit concluded with a chapel service featuring Reverend Roy Johnson, the international grand chaplain for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. as the keynote speaker.

Michael White, a freshman at B-CU who also currently serves as the executive board secretary for the freshman class SGA, called the summit “truly an enlightening experience.”

“Hearing about [the speakers’] struggles and what motivated them to persevere against all odds was truly inspiring,” said White. “It reminded me that even if things don't go according to plan, it doesn't mean we can't achieve our goals. We just need to approach them from a different perspective.”

He particularly enjoyed the golf outing, he said. “The remarkable men who joined us explained how the game of golf and business intertwine, and how these skills can be applied to both our personal and professional lives. The importance of keeping an open mind and embracing the game of golf left a lasting impression on me.”

“When we talk about ‘enter to learn, depart to serve,’ this is about returning to invest,” McKinney said. “And I can honestly say this is one of the things I'm proud of as an alum myself.”