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Leading the Conversation on Black Males Nationwide

LSU Black Male Leadership Initiative Fellows and Advisors Present at National Leadership Conference

02/21/2014 03:49 PM

BATON ROUGE – For a third straight year, a group of LSU Black Male Leadership Initiative, or BMLI, Fellows attended the 26th Annual Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference, or SBSLC, hosted by Texas A&M University from Jan. 16-19.  

As part of the conference, LSU BMLI Fellows presented, “Delinquent or Law Abiding Citizen? Perceptions of the Black Male College Student,” a workshop focused on how young black males can challenge and overcome black male stereotypes that are socially constructed and maintained in social and professional interactions.

“Presenting at SBSLC was an honor and a privilege,” said BMLI Fellow Ricky Richard. “After hearing testimonials of the successes and struggles of our audience, I realized that our experiences are linked by our black masculinity.”

BMLI Fellows that presented include Richard, a junior kinesiology major from Lake Charles; Christopher Baron-Hyppolite, a junior civil engineering major from Bushkill, Pa.; Jordan Biagas a junior mechanical engineering major from Prairieville; Mark Cooper a junior kinesiology major from Shreveport; Justin Garibaldi, a junior studio art major from Slidell; and Travoll Payne, a junior biochemistry major from Jacksonville, Ark.

BMLI Fellows also participated in workshops focusing on leadership, self-reflection, leadership development, and professional development and attended keynote addresses by astrophysicist and TED Fellow Hakeem Oluseyi, award-winning journalist Angela B. Murray, and crisis management specialist Judy Smith, the subject of the ABC television show “Scandal.”

“Back on campus I now have a different mindset,” said Biagas. “I want to reach out to more students in a positive way because the more people that are impacted, the more who will want to help change the community.”

Other BMLI Fellows that attended the conference include Kristian Black, a junior biology major from Shreveport; Trevon Goins-Williams, a junior environmental engineering major from Baton Rouge; Lekan Kassim, a junior chemical engineering major from Houston, Texas; Tyriq Kellam, a sophomore sports administration major from Philadelphia, Pa.; Nolan Knight, a sophomore accounting major from Mandeville; and Zackari Murphy, a sophomore biochemistry major from Shreveport.

“I learned that as BMLI Fellows, we need to take bold action in the LSU community,” said Kellam. “Leaders take bold action.”

Vincent Harris, BMLI graduate coordinator a second year Ph.D. student in educational leadership and research in higher education, and Jude Legiste, BMLI graduate intern and second year Master of Education student in higher education, also presented at the conference. Their presentation, “Confessions of a Black Student: How Reflecting Helps Black College Students Address Vulnerability,” addressed how self-reflection can increase the communication and bonds between Black student peer groups.

“Sharing our practices and knowledge while hearing from the experiences of other advisors was therapeutic,” said Legiste. “It was a great opportunity to share our successes and possibilities in working with Black male college students.”

Other BMLI advisors accompanying the students included BMLI Director Chaunda Allen and BMLI Fellows mentor and second year doctoral student Kourtney Gray.  The trip was sponsored through the support of the LSU Student Government; Organization Relief Fund; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; the African American Cultural Center; LSU Career Service; and the Office of Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach.  

The BMLI Fellows Program is a retention and leadership development program established by the LSU Office of Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Applications for the BMLI Fellows program will be available on Feb. 24. To complete an online application for the 2014 Fellows Program cohort, visit

For more information or to support BMLI, contact Allen at 225-578-4339, by email at or visit the BMLI website at For information on the SBSLC, visit   

LSU Media Relations