The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change’s second annual “Join Hands for Change” gala will celebrate past contributions of African-American men and honor those who are making significant impacts in the present.
The event takes place Thursday, April 9th, at the The Columns at One Commerce Square (125 Monroe Avenue). An opening reception will kick off at 6:30 p.m. The program begins at 7 p.m.
Attendees will be able to enjoy a video presentation, live music from Will Graves & Soul, along with heavy hors d’oeuvres.
An award ceremony will be held to recognize three African-American men for their philanthropic efforts within the Memphis community. The three honorees include Charles Harris, former star linebacker for the University of Memphis; Derwin Sisnett, co-founder and CEO of Gestalt Community Schools; and Pastor Linwood Dillard Jr. of Citadel of Deliverance Temple of God in Christ.
Daphene McFerren, director of the Hooks Institute, says she hopes the gala will strengthen the appreciation people have for African-American men and the role they’ve played in America’s prosperity. She said it’s significant for black men to continue to have a role in efforts established to create stronger communities locally, statewide, and throughout the nation.
“In Memphis, African-American men comprise approximately 62 percent of the city and 52 percent of the county,” McFerren says. “We must have African-American men excel in academics, business, families, and the civic life of our communities to create a strong Memphis. The Hooks Institute is making a collective call for action for all communities, not just African-American communities, to support efforts to build prosperity among African-American men. All of our lives, regardless of race, are interwoven.”
In addition to providing live entertainment and an award ceremony, the gala will also launch the Hooks African American Male Initiative (HAAMI). The effort aims to increase the amount of black males who graduate in four years from the University of Memphis. The organization plans to accomplish this goal by connecting program participants with academic mentoring, workforce preparation, and other social and professional development resources. A portion of the gala’s proceeds will be used to fund HAAMI.
Tim Rose, program manager for the Hooks Institute, says HAAMI would be a daily monitoring service that around 20 young men will be able to take advantage of.
“These young men will check in every day with the Hooks Institute,” Rose says. “We’ll know if they’re going to class, having any personal or life struggles that we can point them in the right direction [to help overcome]. The goal is not only to retain and graduate them. The goal is to find employment opportunities, internships, and get them into the marketplace so they can take care of themselves, start a family, continue their education, and make a difference in their community.”
The “Join Hands for Change” gala coincides with the fifth anniversary of Memphis-bred civil rights icon Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks’ passing.
In 1996, Hooks, along with the University of Memphis’ Department of Political Science and College of Arts & Sciences, founded the Hooks Institute. The organization brings awareness of civil rights and social change through speaking engagements, funding faculty research, and community service.
Tickets for the event can be purchased for $100 here.