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Black Student Leaders Get Re-energized at D.C. Conference


To say the recently concluded National Black Student Leadership Development Conference was helpful to Shawna Murray, a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, is an understatement.

“This conference is specifically developed for Black culture. What is taught and what is learned is a lot different from what you hear at general leadership conferences,” said Murray, first vice president of the Black Student Union at her school. “You can’t rely specifically on White leadership to take on a lot of the issues that we as Black students deal with in everyday life. This conference has changed my life and my outlook on the way I define leadership.”

Murray was among nearly 1,000 of the best and brightest student leaders from colleges and universities around the country to descend on the nation’s capital to absorb all the knowledge that leaders in business and spirituality had to offer.

The Carroll F. S. Hardy National Black Student Leadership Development Conference, now in its 22nd year, continues to surge with momentum. Student leaders were eager to engage in the type of discussions that induce effective, powerful leadership and to hear from distinguished conference facilitators, such as the celebrated psychologist, Dr. Na’im Akbar, author of Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery.

During Friday’s opening session, Akbar, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, reminded students that they were the recipients of the wealth and comfort that a preceding generation made possible. Students were charged by Akbar to build on the accomplishments of their predecessors and to take future generations to the next level.

This year’s conference theme was “A Work in Progress: The Spiritual, Mental and Physical Dimensions of Leadership.” At the conference, Dr. Carroll F. S. Hardy, president of the National Black Student Leadership Development Conference, attempted to instill in students the fundamental skills of leadership through workshops designed to stimulate their interests and satiate their spiritual and intellectual appetites.

Inspired by author Jim Collins’ book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap — And Other Don’t, Dr. Debyii Thomas, an assistant professor of communications at Howard University, revealed the secret to extraordinary leadership, teaching students to study hard, persevere and excel on all levels if they aspire to be great leaders.

 “Be more than good,” said Thomas, adding “for good is only average, the bare minimum, the antithesis of great. Good is one step above bad and one step below better.”

Following a description of the characteristics of a great leader, which included focus, tenacity, efficiency and commitment, Thomas reminded students of the value of determination. “Frederick Douglass once said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a struggle.’ Don’t give up at the first sign of adversity,” Thomas said.

Students said they were grateful for the opportunity to network with industry leaders and address issues of Black leadership that are usually absent at other leadership conferences.

Patrick Adeleye, a sophomore at the University of Georgia, said he will thrive all year on the encouragement and mentorship that he received at the conference. “There is a lot of underlining racism on the University of Georgia’s campus,” he said. “Organizations of color are often overlooked for funding and alumni mentorship is nearly nonexistent. Here, we learn how to network and address those situations.”

–Michelle J. Nealy


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