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Virtual conference to discuss mental health, award scholarships

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Nine speakers will discuss mental health and 10 college scholarships will be awarded during the virtual Speaking Truth And Never Doubting Unlimited Potential (S.T.A.N.D. U.P.) Conference from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. July 23.

This year’s event, “Manhood: The Battle of the Mind,” will focus on mental health within the Black male community. Actor Derek Luke, who is most famous for his title role in the 2002 film “Antwone Fisher,” will be the keynote speaker. Other speakers include pastor Denell Howard, Geoffrey Gaither, Marion County Superior Court judge, and Fred Yeakey, vice president of Providence Cristo Rey High School.

Each speaker will have about 20 minutes to present and then 10 minutes to answer questions posed by the audience, said Robert Jackson, speaker and founder of the conference.

Yeakey will discuss his personal experience with mental health as an educator, husband and father and the stigma attached to talking about mental health, especially for African American men. Growing up he was encouraged to just push through his issues without speaking about them. This kind of mentality can cause people to avoid recognizing trauma and its effects until many years after it occurs, Yeakey said.

“The reality is, is being Black in America is hard,” he said. “If you don’t have a space of someone who understands and listens to you, that can drive you over the edge.”

Brian Dinkins, CEO of Center for Empowering Education, will speak about how men can develop their emotional intelligence. Being cognizant of their emotional state can help Black men appropriately respond and deal with situations such as racially charged media and stereotypes, Dinkins said.

In between presentations, attendees will be asked questions relating to what the speakers said to earn prizes, such as a new laptop, bikes and scooters.

Jackson said the conference speakers are focusing on mental health this year because a lot of men do not like to share their struggles or talk about this topic, and he wanted to provide a safe space for them to do so. He said he also wants men attending the conference to learn strategies on how to continue improving their mental health outside of the virtual event.

“We wanted to give our men a shoulder to lean on,” he said. “We just want to encourage men to talk about things that have been bothering them and let them know that they are not alone.”

Jackson wants to remind men they need to lean on each other to continue to serve as leaders in their families and in their community.

At the end of the event, 10 scholarships of $1,000 will be awarded to young men pursuing an undergraduate college degree. The panel of judges will be looking for male students who are either a senior in high school or undergraduate student pursuing a college degree who have good grades and are involved in their community, Jackson said.

Quentin Anderson, who received a scholarship at last year’s conference, is studying music performance at the University of Indianapolis. He said the scholarship helped him pay his tuition.

Anderson said both earning the scholarship and attending the conference last year taught him he has many connections in his community that will help him as he pursues his education and his career. He realized there is a village behind him, ready to support him.

The application portal for the scholarships will close at 10 a.m. July 23, the day of the conference.

Contact staff writer Madison Smalstig at 317-924-5143. Follow her on Twitter @madi_smals.

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