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Black and Latino men unite for positive change

Carlos Ojeda speaks to students about his life-changing experiences in college.
Justin David Tate
Carlos Ojeda speaks to students about his life-changing experiences in college.
By Justin David Tate

Half of African-American and Latino males never finish high school.
That’s  one of the first statistics quoted at the beginning of the film “Bring Your A+ Game,” which kicked off an Oct. 22 event to promote the new African-American Latino Male Initiative (AALMI) club on campus.
Speech professor Courtney Brazile showed the film to more than two dozen male students at the meeting, which introduced students to the new club that is scheduled to start in the spring. AALMI is a district-wide network of individual clubs that helps males attending DCCCD colleges strive for better lives and careers.
“Though it’s called the African-American Latino Male Initiative, we want to be sure that what we do here as it relates to leadership is inclusive of all male students in regards to race,” Brazile said
A panel discussion after the film included guests such as Cedar Valley Dean of Retention Management Russell Haynes. Haynes is the club adviser of Cedar Valley’s branch and the chairman of the district’s AALMI.
Though he finds the statistic about black male high school dropouts alarming, Haynes believes the college dropout rate is even more disturbing. He said only one in four minority males graduates from college. According to Haynes, the world has changed and a certain mediocrity is no longer acceptable.
“The days for the low-end jobs that will pay decent money are pretty much over,” Haynes said. “Six years ago, you could’ve gone out with a high school diploma and gotten a job at a call center and been paid $10-$11 an hour … Technology has allowed all the different companies to be able to take those same jobs and pay an employee $2 an hour.”
One of Haynes’ pupils, Toni Medford, was also a guest on the panel. Medford finds the number of minority graduates disturbing, but is optimistic his message will reach many.
“What we’re doing is gathering our brothers and showing them that there are better options than [those] we already have,” Medford said.
Carlos Ojeda, an instructor at Eastfield’s automotive technology department and also a member of the panel, stressed the importance of back-up plans.
“Pick a game and give yourself some backups. That way, you have something to fall back on,” Ojeda said. “I’m pretty good with my hands. I wanted to become an architect. I actually came here [to Eastfield] and learned how to do [auto] paint and body, and it’s been good to me ever since. I studied it in ’92 or ’93, and I came back in about 2000 and became a faculty member.”
The Eastfield chapter of the AALMI will hold its first meeting in the spring semester and will meet every first and third Monday of each month.
The first meeting of the month will be about setting the agenda for what the club will attempt to accomplish.
The second meeting will consist of skill-building activities such as basketball, dominoes and card games that are meant to create and strengthen a bond among the club’s members.
Brazile, who is one of the club’s advisers, would like to organize a three-on-three basketball tournament on campus as the club’s first major event.
“We can have cash prizes,” Brazile said. “I would like to maybe involve 97.9 The Beat. I had [radio personality] J Kruz come for a program in February [during] Black History Month.”
The club’s president and vice president have been selected for next semester.
Haynes, Ojeda and Medford stated their willingness and full commitment to helping the program in any way they can.
“Caucasian males, Latino males, any male possible that is in the struggle and feels like he can’t make it, we’re here to reach out to you,” Medford said.

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