Dept. of Psychology’s Community Health Program aims to aspire, inspire and engage

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Jackson State University’s Community Health Program presents the 2021 Virtual Conference “Building the Black Man Reloaded: A Challenge to Aspire, Inspire and Engage” on Thursday, April 8 at 10 a.m. The Community Health Program is an arm of the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts.

Kevin Patterson, research associate, explained that the conference materialized several years ago through funding to create the MAC Initiative, which stands for Men Acting Courageously. Once funding ended, the Department of Psychology decided to continue the conference.



“The men’s conference is really designed to be an empowerment conference where we challenge the students and African American men on campus,” said Patterson.

“We also invite our sisters because we know that they are vehicles to getting African American men to the conference. We’ve been doing this conference for three years.”

The theme of the conference is intended to challenge young men in realizing that they do not have to settle for the status quo.

“It is about recognizing that you can aspire to something better and bigger. You also have a responsibility to inspire those around you. Inspire those coming up behind you; young cousins, nephews, and siblings. Those young guys in the hood,” Patterson shared.

The overarching goal is to help others look at their tomorrow and see a bigger picture while also acknowledging their present responsibility, which is to inspire others and then engage in what is happening in the community.

Patterson referenced incidents like the death of George Floyd and local crime as motivation for others to get involved in diffusing confrontations while pointing out the need for conflict resolution to rectify issues that could result in tragic outcomes.

“It’s in the hands of our Black men to really be an anchor and help push positive change in the community. So that is the purpose of the men’s conference,” he said.

The conference panel discussion will include:

  • Dr. Mark Henderson, associate professor and coordinator of speech studies, in the Theatre Department at JSU. Henderson is also the founder of the MADDRAMA performance troupe.
  • Dr. Javontae Lee Williams, planning coordinator for the Philadelphia Department of Health, and
  • Chris Grant, a professional dancer with a diverse portfolio and an alum of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Patterson shared that each man brings a unique perspective. He defines Henderson as understanding what it means to engage “our community with the issues affecting us,” which is reflected in the way MADDRAMA addresses issues in their dramatic presentation.

Through his work with HIV/AIDS clients, Williams has implemented several impactful interventions. Patterson praised the planning coordinator for having an incredible sense of recognizing what empowerment looks like.

“I really want him to deal with, in a larger fashion, what we need to recognize as we talk about empowerment. It’s a big word and a broad word, so we really need to get some specifics down,” Patterson explained.

As for Grant, Patterson described him as having a phenomenal aura. “He will discuss what it means to inspire. How one really uses their life to inspire others.”

The remaining 45 minutes of the conference are reserved for discussion, a trivia game and giveaways.

To tune in at 10 a.m., click here.