A city of the unknown, and a state more than one-hundred miles away, and an airplane ride for the first time; these are the first things that came to mind when my chaperone asked me, “You want to go to U.C.L.A. for the Tavis Smiley Leadership Conference for one week with some students from the community? You will have a chance to meet 250 students from across the United States!!!” I had never been to L.A., a leadership conference, or even the west coast before, so wanting to go somewhere new, I said, “Yeah! Sounds like a lot of fun!”
To be a part of this Leadership Conference, I had to fill out an application, obtain a recommendation, send in a resume, and write two essays. Yeah sounds like a lot of fun! While doing all of this, I decided that I should learn more about this conference, and what it’s going to consist of since I’m going to be there only one week. While viewing the website of www.youthtoleaders.org/home.asp, I found out that some very inspirational people were also going to be a part of this conference; such as Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Eddie Glaude, and Mr. Tavis Smiley himself. Nonetheless, I also was considered an inspirational person attending the conference, because about two weeks before the conference I found out that I had won the essay contest for the second essay that we had to write. The topic of the second essay was: “How is having the love for your history important? And how does knowing your history affect your future?”
The week began on August 7, and we did a lot of leadership building activities, we had a lot of speakers, we were in many groups that talked about solving problems in our everyday lives. I learned from my group, that I was surrounded by many students from different parts of the United States that shared one view: The love for Black people, and how we should stop being stereotypical of one another, and other races, because deep down, we’re really all the same.
The night of the Teen Town Hall meeting, which was the night that Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Eddie Glaude, and Mr. Tavis Smiley would be attending, was the night that I was going to be speaking in front of 250 students about: How does knowing your history affect your future? I thought that being in the presence of these three well-known people was going to make me nervous, and even sitting next to Dr. Cornel West, I thought that I would pass out. But truthfully, he made me comfortable, because I realized that he didn’t have a celebrity attitude; he revealed that he had a “I’m African American just like you!” attitude, meaning that I shouldn’t look at him any different.
The day that I left the conference felt like a funeral; because everyone was sad, and of course no one wanted to leave. Making new friends, meeting inspirational people, and most of all I found out what a leader really is: it’s not just about taking the first initiative to do something, it’s about loving the people that you lead, serving the people that you lead or you have to be willing to give up something for the people that you’re leading in order to save the people that your leading.
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