Day two of the A.P. Torrence Youth Leadership Academy started with much excitement. Students were challenged to always thank people, beat back labels, and dream big.
Dr. Said Sewell
The morning sessions kicked off with a powerful, motivational message from Dr. Said Sewell, Vice President for Student Affairs at Morehouse College. Dr. Sewell gave the students a poignant illustration of the value of black lives. Using a $5 bill, he asked the students, “If I gave you this $5 bill instead of $20, does it still have value? If I crumpled this $5 bill, does it still have value? If I threw this $5 bill to the ground and stepped on it, does it still have value? If I spit on this $5 bill, does it still have value? If I tore this $5 bill in half, does it still have value?” Student answered each question with a resounding, “Yes!” Dr. Sewell’s illustration paralleled the lives of black men who live in a society where their lives are not as valuable as other human beings; who have been crumpled, thrown to the ground and stepped on, spit on, and torn in two. Dr. Sewell challenged the students to “tape up” what’s broken in their lives because their lives have value.
Reverend DuJuan Morris
In their next session, students were questioned, “What is a label?” by Reverend DuJuan Morris, Associate Pastor of Paradise Missionary Baptist Church. Reverend Morris said, “I’m not going to sugar coat this for you today. As young African American men, there are those who are in authority and who have power who have labeled you a criminal.” Reverend Morris challenged students to defeat the labels society has placed upon them. “You have strength within you. You have the authority to make your own conception of yourself. There is nothing you can’t achieve.”
Professor Ken and Mr. Turnipseed
The morning sessions ended with a heartfelt message from Mr. Andre Turnipseed of Home Repairs Ministries. Mr. Turnipseed challenged students to dream big. “Always put God first. Your dreams come from God. God sees the great potential in you,” he said.
Students were given time to capture their thoughts about today’s morning sessions in their journals.
After lunch, Professor Ken facilitated a session on leadership skills. Students were exposed to Professor Ken’s personal stories of his friendships with football greats Joe Gilliam, Jr. and Jim Brown. Students also found themselves learning valuable leadership lessons during a puzzle exercise led by academy counselors.
Professor Ken marveled at the untouched potential of each of the students.