Bill Cosby, speaking at a forum on young black men called “Paths To Success,” a July 18, 2006, event sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Washington Post and Harvard University, attacked the media for being too kind to black men. “Yes, you heard that right,” wrote Keith Boykin on his political blog, keithboykin.com. “In response to an ongoing Washington Post newspaper series about ‘Being A Black Man,’ Cosby lashed out at the paper for not portraying black men more negatively. ‘I’m not interested in hearing that things aren’t as bad as they seem" said Cosby. ‘They’re horrible.’”

It is against the backdrop of ongoing controversies such as the Cosby-Washington Post fray that Princeton University presents its second annual Black Men in America conference,“Six Faces of Being a Black Man,” a day-long event that takes place on campus on Saturday, March 3.

“Our goal is to create a national event that is known as the premier conference on issues concerning black men in America,” says Princeton senior Chris Chaney, co-organizer of the conference, which features scholars from Princeton, Harvard, Brown and other universities as well as entrepreneurs, educators, and civic leaders. “This year’s conference is bigger in scope and size. We have 46 speakers and moderators from across the country and are expecting attendees from more than 30 colleges,” says Chaney.

Organized by students from the Princeton Black Men’s Awareness Group the conference, which is open to the public, “seeks to explore the social, economic, political, and personal realities facing black men today.” An estimated 400 people are expected to attend seven panel discussions that will explore the role of black male professionals; black men and issues of sexual as well as mental health; the importance of religion in black male America; the plight of black men in the urban education system; and black men as family men.

Speakers include John H. McWhorter, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the New York Times bestseller, “Losing the Race”; K. Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy at Princeton; Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton; Deborah Blanks, associate dean at the Office of the Dean of Religious Life at Princeton; Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard University; Howard White, vice president of the Jordan Brand; Sheron Smith, founder and president of Good Tree Media, and mother and manager of the rapper Mos Def; Tricia Rose, professor of Africana studies at Brown University; and Bakari Kitwana, co-founder of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention and former executive editor of The Source.

“Given the importance of Princeton University as a national and international institution, and the myriad issues facing black men, this conference is both critically important and timely,” says speaker Roland Warren, a Princeton graduate, Class of 1983, and president of the National Fatherhood Initiative.

“I felt that a black men’s conference at an Ivy League institution such as Princeton was well overdue, especially considering the tremendous black scholars we have here,” says Chaney. He says the forum is also a natural extension of the community service and scholarly work of the Black Men’s Awareness Group, established by undergraduate and graduate students in 1994 to address issues unique to black men, and to promote the intellectual growth and civic responsibility of its members.

The conference begins with breakfast in the Frist Campus Center, followed by keynote speaker Herb Boyd in Richardson Auditorium. After the panel discussions the conference ends in McCosh Hall with a town hall meeting moderated by Kitwana, followed by a reception featuring live jazz by the Irwin Hall Collective at the Frist Campus Center.

Second Annual Black Men in America Conference, Saturday, March 3, Princeton University. The conference is open to the public, but registration is required. Registration is free for University students and affiliates (faculty and staff), $20 for alumni, $20 for non-Princeton students, and $30 for the general public. To register and to view a full conference schedule, visit www.bmagconference.org.

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