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Rebuilding the Block


By Colleen Glenn

A new year is just starting, but an important community series at the Lyric is already underway. “Rebuilding the Block,” the S.T. Roach Community Conversations, kicked off in December and will continue through the spring.

The second annual series is a collaborative project created by UK’s African American & Africana Studies Program in partnership with the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center. Faculty members from across the University of Kentucky are involved in the project.

“The idea is to broaden access to university professors beyond the campus,” says Frank X Walker, Professor of African American and Africana Studies and Creative Writing. “We wanted to do something at the Lyric that interfaced with the community.”

The 2011-2012 series focuses broadly on rebuilding the African American community and specifically on black male development, with a variety of lectures and discussions designed to present a holistic view of the subject.

Discussing the origin of this year’s theme, Walker explains that he and his colleagues noticed a near absence of positive news about black men in the local media.

“With the recent shooting spree in the Lexington area, the headlines that dominate the press have been generally negative. Even the potentially neutral area of sports had a lot of negative news at the beginning of the semester,” says Walker. “There are a lot of black men doing good things that are not often acknowledged publicly.”

“Rebuilding the Block” runs from December to June, and each session focuses on a different segment of black male development. For example, in February, UK professor Lynda Brown Wright will lead a session on the mental health consequences of racial oppression and its impact on black manhood, while in March, Professor Jai Gilliam will discuss health concerns specific to black men.

The series will also include talks from Professors Vershawn Young and Arnold Farr on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hope for black manhood and Jakobi Williams on the Black Power Movement. In May, legal scholar Melynda J. Price will moderate a panel discussion between police officers and young black men.

"A program dedicated to the 'Celebration of Black Male Excellence' is an acknowledgement that is long overdue," says Yetta Young, Executive Director of the Lyric Theater. "The Lyric is proud to partner with the University of Kentucky’s AAAS Program in the efforts to reach the community as a whole, with such a grand gesture to show our appreciation of those, on both large and small platforms, who have committed their time and attention to molding the next generation into honorable citizens."

The conversations will conclude with a Father’s Day weekend presentation, celebrating the Man of the Year as well as recognizing significant achievements of black men throughout the Lexington community.

“We want to look at the whole person,” says Walker. “Hopefully, we’ll encourage people to come back to each session, so that by June we’ll all have a model to develop a whole person. Ending on Father’s day weekend feels whole somehow.”