By Ricky Richardson, Contributing Writer

        (Wilmington, CA.)- Several hundred young men of color and their advisors/counselors gathered inside the Student Union at Los Angeles Harbor College, 1111 Figueroa Place, Wilmington, CA. 90744.

        This group of amazing young men were in attendance for the 4th Annual Men of Color Leadership Conference, Friday, March 25, 2022, from 8:00am-3:00pm. Los Angeles Harbor College was the idea setting for the conference. Attendees were in a synergistic space that offered encouragement, support and empowerment, to learn, grow, thrive and network with other students with a shared commonality. Los Angeles Harbor College “Education Changes Everything” sums up the annual Men of Color Leadership Conference.

        The conference is held every year as part of the Men of Color Action Network commitment to assist African American and Latino male students to succeed while pursuing their education at local community colleges. Students are connected to tools, resources, contacts, community, to assist them on their career paths. It is important to note that the conference is FREE of charge. This is so that organizers can reach as many Men of Color for the conference without having to overcome barriers for students seeking professional development opportunities.

        The Men of Color Leadership Conference gets bigger and better each year, while building on the success of previous year’s conference. The conference seamlessly combined lessons from each iteration.

        The inaugural Men of Color Leadership Conference was held at Santa Monica College in 2018, with a theme “Agents of Change.”

        The 2nd Annual Men of Color Leadership Conference took place at El Camino College in 2019, the theme, “A Holistic Approach to Healing Men of Color.”

        Compton College hosted the 3rd Annual Men of Color Leadership Conference in 2020. The conference was held virtually due to the pandemic with the theme, “Voice, Vote, Revolution.”

        Los Angeles Harbor College was the site for the 4th Annual Men of Color Leadership Conference, “Staying in The Game: A Legacy of Local Heroes,” focused on student retention and academic excellence to assist and guide students toward their educational and career goals.

        Participating colleges at this year’s conference were Long Beach City College, Compton College, El Camino College, Los Angeles Southwest College, Santa Monica College, Pasadena City College, Mt. San Antonio College, College of the Canyons and Los Angeles Harbor College.

        Board of Trustee members, Chancellors, Presidents/Superintendents, and Vice Presidents from the respective colleges were also in attendance to show their support.

Ximena Palacios and Arturo Ramirez, CALI 93.9 (Photo: Ricky Richardson)

        Emcee Ximena Palacios and Arturo Ramirez, DJ RZRO, CALI 93.9 provided an eclectic soundtrack of music for the morning breakfast and lunch break.


Dr. Luis Dorado, Interim President, LAHC, Dr. Thomas A. Parham, President, CSUDH and Dr. Henan Joof, Interim VP, Student Services (Photo: Ricky Richardson)

        Ivan Silva, Los Angeles Harbor College Dreamers Counselor served as Master of Ceremonies. Dr. Luis Dorado, Interim President, Los Angeles Harbor College, gave an overview of the day’s program, afterwards, introduced Dr. Thomas A. Parham, President, Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

        Dr. Parham delivered a powerful speech to plant seeds of possibilities into the minds and hearts of the captivated audience. Dr. Parham also provided the “tools for student to unlock the barriers that will keep them from achieving their goals, and to imagine a better, brighter future for themselves.”

        Students were able to attend a variety of engaging breakout workshops, to build inner strength, self-confidence and resilience. Method to My Greatness: the Power to Becoming Your Own Architect; Mindfulness and Mental Health for Men of Color; News of the World; Rising from Shame: The Baggage You Didn’t Know You Were Carrying; Playing the Game: Drawing Parallels to Success from Sports, Academic and Life; and No My Name, My Face, My Story as a Community College Athlete.

        Two back to back enlightening workshops were presented for Professionals. How to Climb the Professional Ladder (Academic Affairs and Student Services). The first workshop for Student Services featured a dynamic panel- Michael Tuitasi, Vice President of Student Affairs, Santa Monica College; Dr. Henan Joof, Interim Vice President, Student Services, Los Angeles Harbor College and Dr. Eric Becerra, Director of Special Projects, Long Beach City College. Dr. Gregory Toya, Director of Student Development, El Camino College served as Moderator. The second workshop for Academic Affairs featured and equally dynamic panel- Reggie Ellis, Athletics Director, Santa Monica College; Dr. Keith Curry, President/CEO, Compton College; Dr. Michael Paul Wong, Director of Counseling, Moreno Valley College; and Dr. Byron D. Cliff Breland, Chancellor, North Orange County Community College District. Chris Dela Cruz, Student Clubs and Organization Advisor, El Camino College, moderated the panel.

Dr. Francisco C. Rodriguez, Chancellor, LACCD (Photo: Ricky Richardson)

        Dr. Francisco C. Rodriguez, Chancellor, Los Angeles Community College District was the closing keynote speaker. Dr. Rodriguez knocked it out of the park, as it relates to the conference theme.

        Dr. Rodriguez shared his life story, enhanced with a PowerPoint presentation, about overcoming adversity, how he was able to adapt, innovate, and learn with the support of his family and other mentors to achieve success, that resonated with the attentive crowd.

        The students left the 4th Annual Men of Color Leadership Conference re-energized, and with a renewed spirit of hope for the possibilities that await them on their educational or career journey.

        The Men of Color Action Network are a group of Men of Color (Administrators/Faculty/Staff) from Santa Monica College, El Camino College, Long Beach City College, Pasadena City College, Los Angeles Harbor College, Compton College, Mt. San Antonio College, and College of the Canyons. The goal of the conference is to ignite a collaborative spirit between students who are men of color from various college campuses and leaders who have access to social capital that have the ability to support them. Through the conference, students are exposed to various types of resources to support their academic, personal and professional success.

        The 4th Annual Men of Color Leadership Conference was sponsored by Los Angeles Harbor College, Compton College, Los Angeles Harbor College Foundation, Samuel P. Adams Trust, The Ichigo Foundation. ConexED and The Callon Family Fund.

        Believe it not, The Men of Color Action Network will reach a milestone next year. It is hard to believe that next year’s conference, to be held at Pasadena City College, will be the 5th Annual Men of Color Leadership Conference.