Mentors honored at inaugural celebration
by Angelo Lanham
At the first annual Collegiate 100 Black Men Silicon Valley program/dinner on Sunday, about 40 honorees and families sat between a long table full of food, courtesy of Spartan Catering, and vice president of the SJSU branch DeMarcus Hewitt.
He said the concept of the national organization began in New York in 1963 as an attempt to improve the quality of life for blacks and other minorities.
The SJSU branch, he said, started last fall.
It is particularly useful for a younger generation to speak to these even younger students for reasons of communication, former president Bill Hendricks said.
“Sometimes, we just don’t get it,” Hendricks said, referencing the difficulties of talking to a younger generation in a way they will be receptive.
He also emphasized that without community involvement, mentoring programs like 100 Black Men would not work.
Andre Barnes , SJSU chief of police and staff advisor for the SJSU organization, said there are 200 of the 100 Black Men Collegiate nation wide.
Barnes said the group talks to fraternities and campus clubs about mentoring them and pairs them up with a specific mentor. The initiates are then recruited to talk to high schools and middle schools.
Joel Bridgeman, graduating senior and one of the honorees, said in his speech he was happy the organization had reached the West Coast, though he was sorry he couldn’t be a part of the organization, since it came together when he was on his way out. He was later inducted as a surprise.
“Growing up in Richmond,” he said, “we weren’t worried about the goals the 100 encourages.”
Bridgeman mentioned the importance of breaking what he called a “cycle” of getting arrested and returning to the streets for the youth living in underprivileged communities. He said in his public schools, there were no role models, windows or books, and instead there were “metal detectors, and more security guards than counselors.”
“Mentoring is an important thing. I wouldn’t be here without a mentor,” Bridgeman said.
About a half-hour after the metal covers had been removed from the food and dinner was served, Raysean Ford sang a song titled ‘Thank You” a capella, best summed up by the passage “In spite of everything I’ve been through / I’ve still got to say ‘thank you.'”
Corey Baker, a senior computer engineering major who said he was one of the 12 founding members, said it was nice to be honored before he graduated.
“I feel great,” Baker, 23, said. “I’ve been waiting to graduate. I’m the first person to graduate in my family.”
Will Turner, a sophomore physics major who helped chair the event, said he was happy with the turnout.
“I feel that it’s good,” said Turner, 20. “The focus is different than other organizations in SJSU.”
Turner said the most unique aspect of the group is that it focuses on the black community with no emphasis on any particular academic major.
“It went very well,” said Milan Balinton, president of the SJSU branch of the collegiate 100 and a junior communication studies major.
“Very classy, very professional, which is what we were going for,” Balinton, 26, said. “I hope it’ll grow to the capacity of the national organization.”