Black leaders meeting in Freeport on Saturday stressed the importance of education, accountability and giving back to the community as keys to uplift the lives of African-American youth.
About 75 people attended a pre-Father's Day celebration to honor male role models, hosted by a local NAACP chapter at the Freeport Yacht Club. It featured a panel discussion on what's being done locally to improve education, health and safety for youth.
Claudia Swansey, former president of the Freeport-Roosevelt NAACP branch, conceived of the luncheon, aimed at "pursuing liberty in the face of injustice" and showcasing role models.
"We want to show accountability, respectability and acceptability," Swansey said. "We want to put them on a plateau and elevate them and let light shine upon them today. . . . We must address where our men are coming from, we must address the school system, the criminal justice system and the police system."
The panelists, including a local schools superintendent and a former professional basketball player who founded a youth basketball and mentoring camp, spoke of their experiences and efforts in improving the lives of minority youth and communities at large.
Kishore Kuncham, Freeport's superintendent, told the group that his district's African-American students have an 87 percent graduation rate. It's "perhaps the highest in the history of the Freeport community," he said to applause.
"Education is the great equalizer to level the playing field," Kuncham said. "We need to invest in the mental power of our community, our students."
Jamael Lynch, who played professional basketball in Europe, said it's vital for those who find success to give back to the place from which they came. His summer camp, Big and Little Skills Academy in Brooklyn, teaches fitness, health and on- and off-court skills. Lynch said his goal is to raise more money in order to get needy kids into the camp at no cost.
"They always say, 'Be the change you want to see in the world' -- but what does that look like?" Lynch asked. "We bring them in with basketball, then teach and continue to develop them."