An array of African-American community leaders exhorted a gathering of male high school students last night to study their culture's history, take advantage of educational opportunities and assume responsibility for their lives.
The Summit for Young Males, held at Carver Vocational-Technical High School in West Baltimore and attended by about 150 students and adults, was an attempt to capitalize on the spirit and euphoria of the Oct. 16 Million Man March in Washington, organizers said.
"Take what you get and be responsible for yourself because we've gotten away from being responsible for ourselves," said True Asiatic Allah, project coordinator for the Male Involvement Project at St. Bernardine's Head Start Center. "It is really, really, really set up to not be an easy ride. You've got to be responsible for yourself."
The summit was organized by two female staff members at Carver -- Antionette J. Taylor, the school's parent-family liaison, and Felicia Egbe, the computer lab manager.
"We just need a forum to connect the African-American males in the community with the males in the school," Ms. Taylor said.
A forum for the female students is planned for next month.
Last night, speakers emphasized the importance of self-reliance and taking advantage of available opportunities.
Carlos Muhammad, the minister who leads the Nation of Islam's Baltimore mosque, told the youths they cannot rely on outsiders to help them reach their potential.
"America is in deep, deep trouble. And if you depend on this country to make you into something, then you have no chance," he said.
James R. Worthy II, who specializes in finding educational funding for African-American youth, sparked a great deal of interest when he told the youths that only a small percentage of the college scholarship money available to minorities each year is claimed.
Ellsworth Johnson-Bey, president of Destiny Inc., a community development organization, stressed the need for the youths to understand history from an African-American perspective. "You must study history, not just to find out who you are, but who you belong to."
Courtland Shields, a ninth-grader at Carver, said he was impressed by the messages but even more by the fact that the men came at all. "I didn't think people cared so much about what was going on," he said. "I come to find out that a lot of people do care."