The Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC) hosted the first Men of Color Conference on Saturday, an event designed to educate attendees on leadership, academics, and holistic formation.
Rev. Michael Davidson, S.J., director of the BAIC, said that the goal of the event was to celebrate how men of color can support each other and positively impact the world. The BAIC brought in alumni, faculty, and current students as panelists, speakers, and mentors.
Matthew Nacier, former UGBC president and BC ’14, returned to BC as a panelist for the conference.
“I think creating a space for people to speak freely about their experiences at BC, regardless of what they look like [or] where they’re from, is essential,” Nacier said.
Teon Smith, CSOM ’23, is a member of the committee that orchestrated the conference. He was responsible for promoting the conference and encouraging people to register, and talked about how excited he was for several people at the event—Karl Bell from the Learning to Learn Office, for example.
“I’m excited for people to actually take away something, you know. You have so many events on campus, and I feel like people don’t make the most of them, and obviously I think people should.”
The conference began with a keynote address by Juan Concepción, BC ’96, LGSOE ’97, BC Law ’03, and CGSOM ’03, who spoke on authenticity, compassion, and introspection. Concepción is an adjunct professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies program and a trustee associate at BC. He also works as an attorney for Boston Scientific, a medical device company based out of Marlborough, Mass.
Concepción began his speech by reminding the audience that he’s not a finished product, even if he seems like it. He described his experience coming to BC after growing up in Washington Heights in Manhattan and how he adjusted to a new environment.
“When I came here to BC, many thoughts went through my head,” Concepción said. “Can I make it in this place? Am I good enough? Can I really reach my dreams? What will it take? What am I willing to give up to get where I need to be?”
He also highlighted the importance of being present in the lives of loved ones and valuing their support.
“I’m going to encourage you to be things that other people were for me,” he said. “Because as strong as I like to think that I am, I would be nothing if people had not been present in my life. Brothers, we need to be present in our own lives and in the lives of others.”
Concepción advised that students make sure their time at BC is well spent, rather than focusing too much on graduating.
“I encourage all of you to be introspective,” he said. “Reflect on your lives and really think about what it means to not only get the degree, but while you’re getting the degree, and earning that degree, what can you do for yourself and others?”
He touched on the recent news of Kobe Bryant’s death and how it profoundly influenced him and his friends.
“He represented everything that I respect,” Concepción said. “The man excelled in the sport and outside of the sport. … Something died along with those beautiful other people, including his daughter, on that helicopter. Brothers, being compassionate is being able to shed those tears.”
Concepción closed his remarks by encouraging students to be open and loving.
“In conversations of men, there’s a resistance to really talk about love,” Concepción said. “So I say to you, be loving. Really love one another.”
Following the keynote speaker, the group broke into two panels titled “Stepping Stones of College Success” and “Got Leadership?” They were followed by a lecture and question-and-answer session on navigating racism in the 21st century with Martin Summers, a professor in the history department.
The conference reconvened at 4:30 p.m. for the evening gala. Michael Osaghae, UGBC president and MCAS ’20, gave the welcome address. It was followed by a spoken word performance by Ja’Colby Freeman, MCAS ’23, and an address by Bell, associate director of TRIO programs, a federal outreach program aimed at helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
To conclude the conference, three new awards were presented to students. The BAIC honored Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ’20; Idris Council, MCAS ’22; and Osaghae.
Osaghae was awarded the Dr. Dan Bunch Exemplary Senior Award, which highlights a male AHANA senior who exemplifies integrity and leadership. The Dr. Charles Smith Jr. Rising Star Award, presented to Council, honors a sophomore or junior who has shown potential in academics, on-campus leadership, and professional development. Sheikh received the Rev. Howard McLendon Unsung Hero Award, which recognizes an AHANA student who embodies selflessness, often without recognition.
“At the end of the day, I want to make sure that they recognize that their academics are so important, but also that Jesuit education of forming the entire person,” Davidson said. “That as they look around and see people who are different from them, they come to realize that the world is not only black and white.”
Featured Image Courtesy of the BAIC