Black Men of Influence inspires students at UNF to become leaders

Marielisa Martinez

Students watching and asking questions. Photo by Marielisa Martinez
Students watching and asking questions. Photo by Marielisa Martinez

Three African-American leaders talked with UNF students about the benefits of mentoring in overall education and the effect of slavery in black’s people development.

“Mentoring doesn’t always have to be about education,” said Lewis.

The newly opened Black Student Union along the Women’s Center brought Black Men of Influence back to campus for the fifth time on Jan. 30.

The event focused on discussing the challenges and the journey they have come through in order to achieve leadership positions within their communities. The talk is part of the annual panel series hosted by the Women’s Center under the name Inroads to Influence.

Department of Diversity Initiatives director, Sheila Spivey, started the event greeting everyone.“We have a social obligation to impact right here and right now,” Spivey said.

Spivey invited people to stay until the end of the conversation to enjoy free snacks, such as cheeses and cookies, and beverages, such as water and soda.

The discussion started calmly but then the tension increased as the attendants and speakers brought more delicate topics, such the effects of the slavery years to the black community.

Isaiah Rumlin, Erwin Lewis, and Michael Sams. Photo by Marielisa Martinez
Isaiah Rumlin, Erwin Lewis, and Michael Sams. Photo by Marielisa Martinez

The panel was made up of UNF’s senior Associate Athletic Director, Erwin Lewis, the president of the Jacksonville’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Isaiah Rumlin, and UPD Sgt. Michael Sams.

Lewis’ leadership has included overseeing the budget and operations regarding all men’s sports on campus. Rumlin has led protests opposing police brutality and promoting movements such as the “Stop the Violence” march. At the same time, since 2011, Sams has mentored young men through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, besides working for UPD.

Lewis started the panel by talking about the difference between knowledge and education. He explained that parents are the first one to teach any knowledge to their kids, so they must inspire them into pursue a higher education in the future.

“Mentoring doesn’t always have to be about [academic] education. But kids whose parents went to college, tend to go to college as well,” Lewis said.

Following the same idea, Rumlin said parents have the responsibility of inspire their kids to pursue a better future for themselves. “Your parents need to mentor you,” Rumlin concluded.

Even though he recognized the benefits of higher education, he believes it doesn’t determine your success. “You don’t need a degree to make your own business.” said Rumlin.

Sams agreed mentoring has a beneficial impact for a young person’s mind. He also believes parents are sometimes unfit to perform the mentor role.

“Some parents cannot mentor. It’s hard for parents to mentor if they don’t have educational background,” Sams explained.

He also brought up that the legacy of so many generations in slavery still has its repercussion into today’s society.

After their presentations, Spivey officially started the Q&A session with the panelists. Attendants, who were mostly African-American students, asked the speakers some questions but mostly debated their points of view with them.

One UNF student, for example, agreed with Sgt. saying that indeed slavery still affects the black community as a whole. On the other hand, Rumlin disagreed saying that “slavery happened 200 years” and “we got to stop making excuses.”

However, other students believe the black community is headed to great future opportunities.

“We’re so about shortcuts, but it takes growth and it takes time to succeed,” said a female UNF student at the end of the talk.


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