Conference fosters youth empowerment

Over 700 young men from around the Los Angeles area spent Saturday morning in Taper Hall, learning about how to achieve economic, social and political empowerment in their daily lives.

The Omega Educational Foundation hosted its 23rd Youth Leadership Conference and Mentorship Program this weekend, which featured a series of workshops and seminars aimed toward African American men ages 8 to 18.

The goal of the free, one-day conference was to remind attendees that by concentrating on building one’s future, anyone can become a productive and valuable member of society.

The conference was organized by 250 members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, one of the oldest predominantly African American fraternities in the United States, and the first to be founded at a historically black college. The theme of this year’s conference was “Your Image,” and experts from different professional fields such as law enforcement, communications, education, technology and healthcare led workshops that taught attendees how to create a positive self-image.

Various workshops intended to stress the significance of being responsible for one’s own actions by encouraging men to attend college. Furthermore, seminars highlighted the importance of maintaining a good academic standing.

Other workshops aimed to empower attendees by demonstrating the need to make sound decisions based on one’s freedom of choice, rather than uncontrollable circumstance. Additionally, seminars explained that by establishing healthy relationships with family and other community members, young men are set on the path of becoming leaders in society.

One seminar held at the conference was “Manhood 101,” which emphasized the importance of respecting women and listening to one’s elders.

“Seeing mature men in suits tells me that the guys leading the workshops have their stuff together, which automatically sends me a positive message,” said Tyler Johnson, a student at California State University, Los Angeles who attended the event.

Parents were also encouraged to attend, and a Mother’s Conference assembly enabled mothers to get in touch with adult men that could potentially mentor their sons. Fathers who attended the conference were coached on how to be good role models for their sons, and were given advice on how to best establish a healthy and communicative relationship.

Ricky Lewis, the organizer of this year’s conference, advertised the event to public and charter schools as well as churches, community centers and YMCAs. Due to the large amount of people involved in arranging this event, Lewis said that the conference required almost a full year of preparation.

“We are trying to encourage young men of color to just be good citizens, go to school, have better time management skills, proper hygiene and respect their community,” Lewis said.