“It’s been very eye-opening to see there is still promise and hope in Black communities who are thriving and/or surviving many forces, gentrification being one,” IAAR Events and Programs Manager Amatullah King said. “They're riding and finding creative ways to continue to be relevant.”
Mark Little, managing director of the Kenan Institute, said that learning, sharing and building foundations for collaborations with people who want to make an impact in their community is something he hopes attendees will take away from this conference. People can also use this as a networking opportunity to find others interested in similar projects.
“There’s a wide variety of different types of content,” Little said. “They really range in topics from practical methods for collecting stories and archiving materials, self-care, developing partnerships between communities and higher education; there’s a lot.”
Marcus Jenkins, president and founder of a mentorship group known as Regiment of Overriding the Statistics, or R.O.O.T.S, attended the conference last year on behalf of Fayetteville State University.
He said there were many people from all over the United States that were doing amazing work at growing their communities. He particularly liked one group from Illinois that was working to do things, such as buy back property and renovate areas, to help boost the Black economy.
With the help of some people he met at the conference, Jenkins was able to build the foundation for R.O.O.T.S.
“We work in alternative schools and disenfranchised youth to kind of help expose them to different resources — to be that positive aspect and redirect their energy into positive manners,” Jenkins said.
He thought of the conference as a way to network and said it shared similar values to a book he read called "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. In the book, he said there is a group called the Mastermind Alliance that works to help Black communities grow in many ways. These individuals come from different backgrounds to share their inner networks and ideas to enhance their community.
“A lot of the times when we think of historic Black communities, we think of their heyday way back when somewhere, but those people are still there and they're still existing," King said. "They're still trying to maintain communities. It’s not necessarily always about survival and challenge, but how there is still a thriving place that people choose as a place to continue to live.”