In a Board of Regents meeting last Friday, Regent and WKU alumni George Nichols briefly mentioned a new program at work with the executive director of TRIO Programs and the Intercultural Student Engagement Center, Dr. Martha Sales.
Sales and Nichols have talked over the summer about beginning a new program called the Why Knot Us Black Male Initiative Program. Sales said the program strives to add different elements to make the Center grow stronger as well as what they feel students need and what students have expressed they need.
“Of course with societal situations and circumstances, it helps us craft and create things on a smaller scale here at the university,” said Sales. “Some of my team members, even though we have the ISEC Academy and the CARES Program, wanted to increase our programming specifically with the minority males that are participating in ISEC.”
The name of the program was created by Graduate Assistant Trenton Peyton. The first three letters of the name’s acronym resemble WKU’s acronym, said Lamario Moore, Student Success Program coordinator for ISEC. The “knot” specifically resembles the relationship they would like to build with participants.
Moore said the name came from the stigmas surrounding the black community.
“Why can’t we graduate from college? Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we have the same opportunities as our white counterparts? That’s the reason why we wanted to name it that,” said Moore.
The program was inspired by others from different universities as well as Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
Moore said his experiences with several Black male students inspired him to help with the creation of the program.
“I noticed a trend, specifically in Black male students, they didn’t have a strong support system here at the university,” Moore said. “Looking at the resources we had available, we had resources, but we didn’t have anything specific for those Black males.”
Moore said the program is ideal because ISEC already offers many things such as academic, mental health, and social support to Black males.
Sales said the WKU Black Male Initiative will host a unique characteristic which includes having women in on the program as well.
“We want to make sure that the males understand the role that they have,” Sales said. “We also want to make sure that we have the Black females as well to understand the role that they have. We are not on an island alone and we have to work together. We have to communicate.”
The WKU Black Male Initiative will have various components with the first being Read and Lead. Participants will not only be taught how to lead but be encouraged to read literature on various topics such as leadership, relationships, philanthropy, and more.
In the Read and Lead series, George and Cynthia Nichols will select two books per year for them. Participants will then take the books and read them as if they were in a book club.
“We want them to incorporate them in the Center, on campus, mentoring and more,” said Sales.
Read and Lead will also combine with the mentorship program. Participants were chosen by WKU alumni and Tyreon Clark, the employment training specialist at Bowling Green City Schools and Boys to Men Leadership group director.
They will serve as mentors to high school and elementary students and help choose books for them to read and incorporate in their lives as well.
Another component will be a monthly networking luncheon. Dr. Sales said that men of color from Bowling Green, Warren County, and surrounding counties will be invited to the luncheon.
“The males will be familiar with networking, how to get a job and life aspects,” said Sales.
Each male will receive what Sales called “swag”. She anticipates the swag to include different clothing items such as a tie, blazer, socks, and a white shirt.
“We want them to dress for success,” Sales said. At least once a month we want them to wear that around campus and have people ask them why they are dressed up today and they are empowered and excited to tell them why.”
The last component will require ISEC to create a Black Male Leadership Conference. The conference would include keynote speakers who would address the audience in multiple sessions.
“That’s our ultimate goal,” Sales said. How powerful will that be to have a black male speaker come to a predominantly white school?”
Because females would be active in the WKU Black Male initiative as well, a relationship series called the Power Couple will give an opportunity for males and females to sit down in a non-threatening way to share what they need.
“I think the Nichols’ are a perfect example of that,” Sales. “I plan to have them come in and tell (the students) how they made it. In our community, we don’t see a lot of examples of Black and brown love or two-parent households.”
This program is fully supported by a donation from George and Cynthia Nichols.
“Any time I give them an idea of what I want to do, they support it. If I can give them the idea, they are so giving that they will support it,” said Sales.
The program is still in the planning stages but will begin this upcoming semester with around 15 participants in each rank.
Overall, Sales said that the program will help empower both Black males and females to help one another and to break the stigmas surrounding the Black community.
“Just because you have been a victim doesn’t mean you are a victim,” Sales said. “We can help you. We want to help with not only academics but to enrich your manhood and all the things you may have missed at home.”
Moore said the biggest thing he wants for participants to take away from this would be that they have support here on campus.
“I’m not heavy on them being 4.0 scholars, I want them to take away what they need,” Moore said.