The 6th annual Rumble Young Man, Rumble conference, organized by the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, is taking place at the Muhammad Ali Center this week. It brings together around 150 community leaders and educators from around the country to hone their leadership skills and learn from each other about how to improve life outcomes for black men and boys.
Event manager Steve Vassar says one of the strategies the conference promotes is called narrative changing.
“That means changing the story about black men and boys in America,” Vassor says. “The way that black men and boys are viewed, the stories that are told about them, repetitively, if they’re negative, tend to created negative outcomes.”
The gathering’s name comes from conversations between Ali and his corner man, Drew “Bundini” Brown. And Ali’s legacy looms large in the work they do — poignantly so at this year’s convening, which is their first since Ali’s death.
“As people who are working with and on behalf of black men and boys in America, it can sometimes feel like a fight,” he says. “While we are challenged by his passing, we’re also putting our shoulders to the grindstone. There’s so much to take from that legacy, so much beauty and so much Ali magic to build on, that we’re moving through the grief and moving into a place where we can apply that to our work.”
And though the work may seem harder after the racially divisive rhetoric surrounding the presidential election, Vassor says it’s just the continuation of a very old struggle.
“This moment is not new for black people, or people of color, or marginalized people,” he says. “People are more out front with their bigotry, with their xenophobia, with their racism, and we’ve got to ensure that we’re aligned, and continue to align, with those people and organizations that are doing the work on the ground to move the needle for marginalized folk.”
“Rumble Young Man, Rumble” began Wednesday night and continues through Friday.