By Brandon M. Patterson
Young Black Males Support Network, a student group at Western Michigan University, is making strides to “promote excellence” in black men in the student body, but has also made a point of making a national statement with its “Blackout” movements, according to the group’s president.
One way the group is doing this is through its Blackout movements.
“A Blackout is an increasingly surging stand against the National Football League, whose owners have decided to make an example of former quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, and that’s the person that decided to take a stand for black lives by kneeling during the national anthem,” Joshua Sheffey, president of YBMSN, said.
During the Blackout at WMU’s first home game of the season against University of Idaho, on Sept. 16, members of YBMSN, joined by their sister organization, Young Beautiful Black Women, and other supporters dressed in all black. The participants met at the Bernhard Center on WMU’s campus, walked as a unit to Waldo Stadium, and sat during the singing of the national anthem, while raising their fists.
The group is trying to send a clear message that even students will take a stand against injustice, fighting for those who fight for them.
According to Sheffey, YBMSN has been active since 1986. The overall mission of YBMSN is to make better leaders out of black men not only at WMU but at affiliate groups at universities around the state. For example, Sheffey said, “Ferris State University has a group called B.L.A.C.K. which is the acronym for “Black Leaders Aspiring for Critical Knowledge,” and Eastern Michigan University has “Kings of Color.”
While the Blackout was the first social justice issue that YBMSN has tackled, they have done other things like its “Juice Bar” fundraiser. They also plan on volunteering at soup kitchens and have two more Blackouts planned, according to Sheffey.
To ensure that the group is getting is point across, YBMSN will not only use football games as a platform, but is extending its statement to other sporting venues. When WMU plays Michigan State in men’s hockey on Oct. 21, the group will also stage a Blackout, Sheffey said.
The organization will return to the football field Nov. 1, during WMU’s rivalry game against Central Michigan University. YBMSN may be a small organization that many might not know much about, acknowledged Sheffey, YBMSN is holding steady to its values while gaining respect from those who hear about them.
Frederico Tavares, a male student on WMU’s campus, is not a part of YBMSN but appreciates its vision. “If they have one thing they’re trying to fight for, they’re trying to stand up for, they’re trying to make better, I think groups like that are great way to empower people to achieve what they’re trying to achieve as a group and as an individual,” Tavares.
Sheffey said that Young Black Men Support Network “is a safe haven for minorities that come to college for the first time or minorities in general.”
“That’s what we’re here for – to point people in the right direction and develop leaders.”