Summit provides space for black, Latino men on campus

Workshops explore ways to mediate inequalities, injustices


Photo Courtesy of UIUC Black and Latino Men’s Summit

Members of the Black and Latino Summit pose with the graphic promoting the 2020 Summit on Saturday. A decade-long event, this year’s event was themed “Unearthing the Root — Cultivating a New World.”

By Laszlo Richard Toth, Staff Writer

Students from over a dozen institutions all around Illinois and parts of the Midwest came to the University on Saturday to be a part of the Black and Latino Male Summit.

The free annual summit is organized by students with the assistance of the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center and La Casa Cultural Latina and has been going on for over a decade. The event provides an opportunity for enrichment for black and Latino men on campus.

This year’s theme was “Unearthing the Root — Cultivating a New World.” Attendees could choose from three of nine potential workshops to attend throughout the day, which represented various sub-themes like history and world building. 

Workshops included “Queering Brotherhood: Unity in Hermandad,” which explored transphobia and homophobia in the U.S. and how the activism done by Latino and black men to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights is consistently ignored. The “5th and Hill: We’re not Stuck on Stupid,” workshop informed students about the former chemical plant located in the predominantly black neighborhood of Fifth and Hill in Champaign. 

University alumnus Perry Benson, who now is a professor of sociology at the College of Lake County, served as this year’s keynote speaker. During his speech, Benson provided seven suggestions for what actions can be taken by students of color to help mediate the inequalities and injustices in the world around them, which often directly pertain to their lives.

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    “Understand and recognize that being a student of color, in particular at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is a great privilege, and opportunity and responsibility,” Benson said. “We need to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do in that responsibility … and being true to who we are as we grow and expand and connect with the greater University at large.”

    Benson noted the summit has become much more student-led since he attended as a student about 25 years ago.

    The BLMS has a sister summit, the Black and Latina Womxn’s Summit, which will be taking place this Saturday.

    According to Jorge Mena Robles, assistant director at La Casa who helped lead the student planning committee for the BLMS, said part of the reason there are two specific summits based on gender pertains to the fact that initially there had only been a male summit, so the womxn’s summit was created separately to bridge this gap. 

    However, the separation of the two summits also reflects the fact the experiences and challenges faced by people of color do differ individually based on gender. The BLMS provides an opportunity for black and Latino men to think about and discuss the issues that pertain specifically to them. 

    “(The BLMS) was very strategically created as a space for men of color to be honest and vulnerable and share and learn, which unfortunately isn’t a possibility everywhere,” Mena Robles said. “It was strategically made by men as a space for men.”

    All in all, many attendees felt empowered by the summit. 

    “Oftentimes I wouldn’t think I have much power, either within my community or within my organization,” said Alfredo Zavala, junior in ACES, who was in attendance at the summit. “One of the biggest things I got out of it was feeling motivated to actually voice all the opinions I have.”

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