Support group builds black male commmunity


Several students and faculty want to create a sense of community for black male students at DePauw.

Black Male Initiative was started about five years ago for two purposes: to create a space of support and community among black males on campus, and to discuss retention rates and black male recruitment to the university.

The group meets every week to discuss topics that have been determined by its planning committee, which consists of a faculty member and four students.

"It's a discussion about where do we move as a community and what is necessary to improve those numbers," said Hermen Diaz, assistant director of Multicultural Student Services. "I think Black Male Initiative is one of those forum-based groups that can give insight on where the community needs to better itself."

In the past, the initiative was run by Nissy Stetson-Grace and Vince Greer, two former faculty members at DePauw. Now Diaz and Aliya Beavers, program coordinator for Campus Living and Community Development are leading the organization.

Senior AJ Lawal and sophomore Jeffrey Perkins are two student members of the Black Male Initiative planning committee.

"We try to discuss ways to create programs to bring people back and to make them feel they're comfortable here," Perkins said. "We really want to figure why so many males are leaving and when it comes to academics why won't they reach out for help and ways that we can help them stay here so they can further their education."

Lawal was introduced to Black Male Initiative by Greer during his freshman year.

"We just wanted to continue where Vince left off," Lawal said. "We want to keep as many black males as possible."

Diaz feels there is one overarching goal the initiative is trying to reach.

"One of the biggest goals is to have that peer, faculty and staff support for black males on campus," Diaz said. "One of the goals that we hope that transitions to is better retention, better persistence in graduation rates."

Two meetings remain for the semester on March 31 and April 28 from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Reese Hall lobby.

"Meetings are open to anyone who wants to come," Diaz said. "We obviously are looking for more individuals to attend those events and those meetings, specifically black male students."

Lawal also has other motivations for being a part of Black Male Initiative.

"If I make it, I want another black person to make it too," Lawal said. "It's lonely at the top so I'm trying to get as many people up there with me."