Valdosta Daily Times

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April 27, 2014

500 youths attend mentoring event

VALDOSTA — Let Us Make Man gathered Saturday to reclaim black manhood in South Georgia.

More than 500 young men attended the event to hear African-American community leaders and be paired with mentors in their fields of interest. LUMM is an Atlanta-based program participating in a national campaign to positively empower young black boys.

Two Valdosta State University groups, the Black Student League and Phi Beta Sigma, volunteered during the event. Volunteer Chelsea Catlin with the Black Student League registered several young men.

“It’s an important event for the community. I feel like it’s going to make a deep impact. People are here from Mississippi, and many of them are taking buses to get here,” Catlin said. “I’ve never been to anything like this before, but I think it is going to make a really big impact on the community, so I wanted to be a part of it.”

Wylie Jones, 10, of Atlanta arrived with the United Youth Adult Conference. He hoped to meet people during the event. State Rep. Dexter Sharper helped bring LUMM to Valdosta. For Sharper, Jones’ hope to meet people is the driving force behind LUMM.

“We’re here to help get the young black boys guidance. Successful kids need mentors, so if we find a young man who wants to be a doctor, we’ll set them up with a doctor mentor,” Sharper said. “If he wants to be an attorney, then we’ll set him up with an attorney mentor.”

“Our goal is to match these kids up as soon as possible, because those mentors, at a young age, could make all of the difference in the world.”

In the morning, the young men sat through speeches with messages of encouragement, motivation, and wisdom. In the afternoon, they were paired with their mentors.

Judge Penny Brown Reynolds, who is known for her syndicated television show, “Family Court with Judge Penny,” was the only female speaker at the event.

“I am the last one they’ll hear from, and my speech is titled ‘The Birth.’ Because it’s an all-male conference, so they bring in a woman to give birth to the conference much like a woman gives birth to life,” Brown Reynolds said. “That’s what I do every year. I’ve done it for the past six of the eight years.”

She emphasizes the issues that young black men face on a day-to-day basis. She gives advice to help them avoid these issues.

“I think for my objective with the speech is to call out some of the issues that a lot of young African-American men are faced with, and telling them what their responsibilities are,” Brown Reynolds said. “And because I’m a judge and a minister, I see the side where we can’t make any excuses and I am hoping they leave here today rejuvenated. I want to breathe life into them. My number one aim also are the young people. I want to inspire them and let them know that they can do anything.”

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