GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There’s always learning happening at Gulfport High School, but Friday’s lessons stand out as something very different. The Mother/Son Symposium for Men of Color was orchestrated by 9th grade principal Oswago Harper.
“There was a trend, a national trend that was actually beginning to sprinkle its way down into our Gulfport community where men of color weren’t being successful, whether it be academically, whether it be out in the community," Harper said. "We wanted to do some things like this Men of Color Symposium to just pretty much impart any knowledge that we have to help them to be successful in their subsequent lives, as well as right now.”
9th grade student Tyler Reed knows that moving up in world will be hard enough.
“They’re helping us right now and we need that. Because how our generation is going now, we’re not going to last long,” Reed said.
Without a father figure at home, Reed looks to the leaders in his school for that support. Leaders like band director Cameron Jenkins help to fill that void.
“We believe that the family is the most important unit in a child’s life. So if you’re impacting the family, you’re also reaching the child and that community," said Jenkins. "So by doing what we’re doing today, having mom and son together, it’s reaching the entire community.”
Officer Charles Pettway of the Gulfport Police Department spoke to the group about a misconception he feels is widespread among African American youth.
“Black youth think that the cops pick them out at random because they’re black. We’ve got to understand that if you break the law, you’re going to get pulled over. It doesn’t matter." Pettway said. "A lot of people have a misunderstanding when they get pulled over they think sometimes they did something wrong. Sometimes we just want to talk to you to explain what was going on and how we can help you better in life.”
Harper said he hopes the messages shared Friday stay with the students for years to come.