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Ford Men of Courage speakers address the challenges of Black manhood

Noelle Gray
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Ford Men of Courage Leadership Forum and Initiative had its homecoming Friday evening at the Charles H. Wright Museum, with a roster of speakers addressing the challenges facing African American men — and urging listeners to adopt a fuller, healthier concept of manhood.

Jason Wilson has helped  boys break through emotional barriers since he launched the Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy in 2008.

“Growing up in our community, the hyper masculine Black male is the gold standard, and that ruined my perception of what it means to be a man,” said Jason Wilson, a nationally recognized speaker and author of “Cry Like a Man: Fighting for Freedom from Emotional Incarceration."

Wilson and other panelists, who included Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, attorney and former South Carolina lawmaker Bakari Sellers, and Dr. Kenneth Harris, president of the National Business League, spoke about the current state of the Black man.

The discussion was moderated by Khary Turner, executive director of the Coleman A. Foundation, and native Detroiter Justin Kimpson, who leads the program nationally for Ford Motor Co.

"Looking at this from a wide scope and perspective, I want to see this taken to the next level," said Kimpson. "Ultimately, to expand it to a larger audience, and to expand it to more African American men and boys."

Justin Kimpson, right, welcomes young men alongside Detroit police Sgt. Marcus Thirlkill during an educational event for young Black men in 2018.

The day-long event included men participating in sessions with storytelling, networking, and a keynote address from Ryan Wilson, an Atlanta entrepreneur who is CEO and co-founder of The Gathering Spot.

“Our collective assignment is to use spaces like this, to encourage one another and to talk about all the things that are possible together,” Ryan Wilson said. 

“Our tradition suggests that when we come together, more than a little can get accomplished.”

Workshops focused on developing a personal brand, featuring Rebrand Cities CEO Hajj Flemings; moving ideas into actionable business plans, featuring Lambert & Co. Chief of Staff Walter Ward III, and exploration of leadership, featuring Jonathan Wilkins, senior consultant at Deloitte.

Launched in 2015, Men of Courage is a national grassroots program with a goal of building communities and advancing the narrative of Black men.

As part of the initiative, the organization is conducting The Men of Courage Barbershop Challenge. Finalists are Dawn Sandford of Shears and Shaves Spa in Detroit and Duane Greathouse of Greathouse Barber and Beauty Shop in Southfield.

The two will compete over the next 90 days to win a $10,000 grant based on their implementation of initiatives and activities that educate and reinforce positive narratives around Black men.

Ford Motor Co. has worked across the country in different cities to spread the Men of Change Initiative in cities such as Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Tacoma, Washington. In January 2022, the Ford Fund will be launching its program in Baltimore.

Friday evening's event will be followed Sunday by the opening of an exhibit at the Wright Museum, "Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth." The exhibit, according to the museum's website, aims to "highlight revolutionary African American men" through literature, stories and art.

Reservations to visit the museum, 315 E. Warren Ave., must be made in advance. Admission is $15 for adults 13-62, $12 for seniors and children ages 3-12. The museum can be reached at 313-494-5800 or emailinfo@thewright.org.