Editor, The Messenger,

At my Feb. 6 event entitled “Thriving While Black,” it occurred to me that it is probably time for an Athens community black summit. Admittedly, this inspirational thought came to me as a result of the conversation with those in attendance at that meeting. I am not exactly sure what this meeting will look like, but I am sure that it needs to happen (and sooner rather than later).

I was troubled at the event with the realization that several people in the audience did not know each other, or have any idea or concept of some of the successes and positive efforts that were already occurring in the Athens community. So in part, I’d like to use this summit to “bring us together” so that people can put names with faces and choices with voices. It seems to me that for far too long, and especially recently, the right hand has not been in sync with the left hand as it relates to proactivity and concerns in the Athens black community. I want us to meet and greet each other and to share these positives in an effort to build toward more long-lasting solutions.

I can tell you what I don’t want this summit to be. I don’t want it to become a space for people to dump their pet peeves and broad, negative recriminations on the community and audience without the commitment to finding solutions for those very real problems and issues. I don’t want it to devolve into a personality contest, so please check those at the door if you plan to attend. I also don’t want it to be exclusionary or isolating (i.e. all are welcome, but please understand that this will be a safe, black space and you should come prepared to learn, listen, and love).

I am in the midst of talking with like-minded individuals that I feel can be helpful in putting together his summit. I don’t want this group to get too big, but I want big thinkers and committed individuals. If you are interested in being considered to be a part of this planning group, please email me at smithj@ohio.edu. And one more thing, especially since I am a faculty member at Ohio University, I don’t want this gathering to just be an Ohio University event. We will be striving for full and equal participation and involvement from all walks and talks of the Athens black community.


Dr. JW Smith


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