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Local educator seeks to reach young men through Rebuilding the Black Family conference

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Dr Frankie Bell

Dr. Frankie Bell is an educator and author who will hold the Rebuilding the Black Family symposium on Jan. 21 at True Deliverance Holiness Church in Auburn.

Dr. Frankie Bell, a local educator and author, has made it her mission to build up young black men and help them build a better future for themselves and their families. This is the thrust behind a symposium Bell will hold at True Deliverance Holiness Church in Auburn on Jan. 21, just a few days after MLK Day.

Titled 'Rebuilding the Black Family,' Bell said she plans for the event to be a place to hold a community conversation between parents, sons, and leaders. They will discuss the challenges these young men face in school, at home, and in the community.

While the symposium will target black families with boys from fifth grade to eighth grade, Bell says everyone is welcome.

“We got to do something about the crisis we are in with African American boys,” Bell said. “It's not that we don't have problems everywhere, but we have to be real about what's going on… there’s a huge gap of disparity with our black boys.”

The Rebuilding the Black Family conference begins at 11 a.m. and will be held in two parts. The first half will be for the parents to learn how to better connect with their kids. During this time, the boys will get to spend time with and learn from professional football players, Corey Grant and Sammie Coates. Both Grant and Coates played in college Auburn University. Grant played at Opelika High School. During the second half of the conference, the boys will join their parents to discuss what they have learned.

“We're going to let the parents start off with their concerns, I think that's only fair,” Bell said. “Once we’ve talked with the parents, we will invite the kids back over to tell us about what they learned that day and to try to engage them into the final conversation.”

Auburn Assistant Chief of Police Clarence Stewart, Assistant Superintendent of Opelika City Schools Tiffany Yelder, and Lee County District Judge Steven T. Speakman are all scheduled to speak at the event. Tamalita Autry, McCarthy Autry, and Tamarcus Milner will also be on hand. Lunch will also be provided.

Educators and off duty police officers are also invited to the symposium. The event is free for everyone.

As an educator, Bell said she has seen upfront the disparities that often effect the black community, particularly young men. Bell was previously the principal at W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley and is currently employed with Spalding County School in Griffin, Ga. She has pointed to single parent households, poor education standards, and social media as all being detriments facing young men in the black community.

Bell said she has worked in alternative school where at least 90% of the students were black males.

“That is a high number,” she said. “Let's come together and have a conversation. Let us be honest with you on what we see in the classroom. Let you be honest with us about what you feel that we're not giving your child in the classroom. And then let's decide together how we can fix it.”

Bell says the education gap has been around for years and that it’s time to rethink how education works to reach Black males.

“The strategy needs to change on how we're educating them,” Bell said. “And so, when they get so far behind in education, they try to look for acceptance in different ways, and they're not always positive. We got to be honest, what you write up in the newspaper, robberies, shootings, Black-on-Black crime, you see it every day. Nobody wants to talk about it, but it's right here in our face. And I think it is because they want to be as equally accepted so they use what they see, drugs, whatever it takes, for them to fit in or for them to be seen.”

With this in mind, Bell created a nonprofit called the DREAAM Project. DREAAM is an acronym for Direct Responsibility of Educating African American Males. Bell said The DREAAM Project exists to help young Black males find ways to better excel in school and to give them the skills they need to build better lives for themselves and their community. The DREAAM Project will host the Rebuilding the Black Family symposium.

“At some point we need to take ownership as adults and as a village of people, educators, political people, churches, just as a whole community,” Bell said. “Because the numbers are showing us that there is a strong and significant gap of acceleration in excelling in school with our black males in every population.”

With the rebuilding the Black Family symposium coming on the heels of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bell showed some concern for where the Black community might be heading if the past isn’t heeded.

“Coming from a Black perspective, I've seen some things in our community that has stripped us from some of our pride,” Bell said. “We got to be honest, that Dr. King fought a very hard fight for us to get some rights that we are just throwing away. We who understand that, we're not saying it enough. We're not making it the sense of urgency that it was made to us.”

Bell said if nothing else, there is one thing she would like for young Black men to know:

“They are loved, that they are special, and they offer something to the universe, that they have so much to offer. They may just need a little help trying to figure it all out… there is more to you than what they say on social media. There is more to you than a football. There is more to you than any athletic sport. You are a person who adds so much to the world and we need you around because some things won't happen unless you all do it.”

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