Letter by Ron Walker on the theme of the 2014 Gathering

Dear COSEBOC Friends and colleagues,

This is the time when COSEBOC makes ready for our signature event, the annual Gathering of Leaders. On April 23-25, 2014, Jackson State University will serve as the site for the 8th annual Gathering of Leaders. With the enthusiastic support of our hosts and partners, Jackson State University and the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation, we anticipate our greatest Gathering ever.

We are extremely pleased that the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans will hold a Town Hall at Jackson State University immediately following our Gathering of Leaders on April 25-26, 2014. Led by our colleague David Johns, this event will feature an extraordinary roster of nationally renowned speakers and opportunities for discussion. I strongly encourage you to be part of this historic event! You can sign-up to attend the White House Town Hall for free when you register for the Gathering.

The Gathering theme, Onward and Upward! Advancing the Affirmative Development of Boys and Young Men of Color, speaks volumes. I am excited that this theme links to the history of the work to guarantee freedom, justice, equality and educational equity for people of color.  The Civil Rights Movement of the '50s, '60s, and '70s was one of the most impactful times in American history.  In Mississippi and across this nation, individuals such as Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, Cesar Chavez, Dennis Banks, Bob Moses, Russell Means, Dolores Huerta, Viola Liuzzo, Hollis Watkins, Fannie Lou Hamer and countless others worked hard for freedom, justice and the opportunities afforded to us today.  

This 8th annual Gathering of Leaders will honor the foundation of resilience, determination and hope laid by these champions for justice. Surely, they would be proud of our collective work to break the back of the educational achievement gap, eliminate disparities that hinder progress, and accelerate the enormous talent and potential that our boys and young men possess. These freedom fighters would be excited to see the academic, social, emotional and cultural development of thousands of boys and young men of color.    

The 8th annual Gathering of Leaders will be a memorable experience for all who attend. There will be time for all in attendance to connect with old friends while making new ones. It will be an occasion for learning about promising practices intended to increase the academic performance and affirmative development of boys and young men of color. And above all, it will be a powerful time for historic reflection as we look towards bright futures for our boys and young men.

I close with words from Maya Angelou's incomparable poem, Still I Rise:

Out of the huts of history's shame 
I rise 
Up from a past that's rooted in pain 
I rise 
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, 
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

 Leaving behind nights of terror and fear 
I rise 
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear 
I rise 
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, 
I am the dream and the hope of the slave. 
I rise 
I rise 
I rise.

Ron Walker
Executive Director, COSEBOC