ATLANTA — The theme of the 100 Black Men of America’s “100 Black Tie Gala,” the conference, and even the organization itself can be crystallized by the powerful and poetic words Hank Thomas, the last surviving member of the first Freedom Riders who rode the ill-fated Greyhound bus into Anniston, Ala in the 1961 that got bombed and the passengers beaten to within an inch of their lives:
“When it is time for me to cross that river and go join with my ancestors of the Middle Passage, and when I am summoned to come before the Village Elders and give accounts, I shall recite 2 Timothy. I shall tell them that I fought the good fight. I completed my course and I kept the fight,” said Thomas, who was bestowed an award at the gala. “And if they ask me, ‘Henry James (Thomas), why did you go on the Freedom Rides, I will tell them in the vernacular of my grandfather: ‘I seen som’thin’ wrong and I done som’thin’ ‘bout it.’”
That’s basically what the 100 Black Men of America stand for: they saw the glaring void of mentors, quality education and opportunities for the much maligned black boys in America and they formed the organization in Atlanta to transform their lives and it quickly grew to dozens of chapters around the nation.
100 Black Men of America, Inc. held The 100 As One Conference was held from June 13 – 17, 2012, drawing leaders from across the U.S. that encompassed government, education, health and wellness, civic and entertainment industries. More than 500 youth from the 100’s global network and over 2,100 attendees participated in concurrent workshops, while an additional 1,400 were in attendance for free screenings and health education at the 100’s Community Empowerment Project.
“In addition to our delivering education, community empowerment and group mentoring our annual meeting also provides the opportunities for chapters to share best practices with other youth-based organizations,” stated Albert E. Dotson, Jr. Chairman, 100 Black Men of America, Inc. “Once again we used our annual conference for public discourse and advocacy around issues facing youth and their families and the communities in which they live.” This year’s Issues Summit and Teen Summits focused on two extremely relevant topics: High Performing Schools: Closing the Opportunity Gap for Black Youth and Bullying.
Among the plethora of events during the weekend included a session sponsored by General Motors (more specifically Cadillac) which sponsored a student workshop, where automotive titan talked about STEM careers in the automotive industry and future technologies for vehicles.
Hank Thomas was treated like a rock star at 100 Black Tie Gala, Concert & Awards program — many people swarmed him for selfies after his poignant acceptance speech — because he was willing to be burned alive inside the bombed bus, just so that other blacks could secure more freedoms in America. He went on to own multiple McDonald’s franchises and other business after his freedom-fighting days.
But he was far from the only person who deserved recognition on this night. The evening included tributes to Albert E. Dotson, Jr. for eight years of dedicated service to the organization. Others honored included Dr. Valerie Montomery Rice, the first woman to be appointed president of the Morehouse School of Medicine; Vivian Prickard, the retiring president of the General Motors Foundation and former VP; and Alexis Hermann, the former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton.