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“The truth is I hurt more than people see.”

“The truth is I was raped and never told anyone.”

“The truth is my brother was murdered.”

These were some of the raw, heartbreaking responses when Muhibb Dyer asked a group of students to finish the sentence “The truth is ...” at the La Crosse Black Youth Summit Saturday afternoon, attended by students from Logan, Lincoln and Longfellow middle schools and Central and Logan high schools.

Dyer, the event’s keynote speaker and member of the Flood the Hood with Dreams: I Will Not Die Young campaign, anticipated the tears, passing out white napkins to the emotional crowd as he asked the hard questions and spoke the harsh truth about being a minority in the United States.

“The point is I’m here because he died,” Dyer said, holding up a shirt printed with a picture of his nephew, who was shot at a young age. “We lose people to violence every day, young people. Repeat after me: My life matters. Even if I feel like nobody cares, I will love myself.”

Dyer was the Summit’s closing speaker, preceded by a student panel and a talk by Ferguson Now members who traveled from Missouri. The event was arranged by Shaundel Spivey, School District of La Crosse cultural liaison, in an effort to connect black, biracial and multiracial students with peers, leaders and professionals “who look like them.”

“I want to get my students in touch with their identity, which can be lost in a predominantly white community,” Spivey said. “This community is their community, and they can have a serious impact on it. I want them to feel confident that they can do whatever they want to do and not be afraid to be great.”

Spivey chose the lineup to cover the areas of self confidence, community engagement, cultural identity and academic excellence. A group of four high school students led a discussion with the younger students on the latter, offering advice on high school and stressing responsibility.

“Talk to your teacher if you have questions,” said Joye Miller, a junior at Central. “Make sure you go to class and don’t be late. Keep your grades in check and don’t be afraid to raise your hand.”

Miller admitted she treated her freshman year as “all fun and games,” but failing grades inspired her to buckle down.

“Getting into trouble is easy; getting out is hard,” Miller said.

“I hung out with people who were bad influences and got suspended freshman year,” said La Monica Thomas, a senior at Logan. “I had to move them out of my life and get my grades up.”

All four girls said they have experienced forms of racism and prejudice at their schools. Thomas said a teacher let a class conversation about the North and South Side shootings in La Crosse “go too far” and stood up for herself, leaving the classroom. Gabrielle Usher, a Central senior, was called the “N” word in middle school. Miller recalled feeling like an outcast on the track and field team.

“I felt like, ‘Oh, my people aren’t here,’” Miller said. “We do have white friends, but the majority are black because we feel more comfortable with them.”

Shaniece Riley, a Central junior, said teachers expect her to be less smart than her fellow students, a sentiment shared by Miller, who advised taking the high road no matter the situation.

“The way you act is how you will be seen,” Miller said.

After breaking for lunch, the students were shown a brief video on the Lost Voices, an activist group that continues to protest the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson.

“It’s hard to look at you all and then look at that video of us marching and we got no justice,” member Meldon Moffitt Miller of the acquittal. “This is no joke; this is our lives. It happens wherever you go — enough is enough.”

Moffitt spoke passionately about police brutality, injustice, the lack of money going towards improving impoverished communities, exercising rights and staying diligent.

“When the reporters leave (after a tragedy), who’s going to be there for us? We’re going to be there. (The Lost Voices) aren’t leaving,” Moffitt said. “When something happens in your own town, you got to stand up for yourself.”

Despite the intensity of the afternoon, Dyer made sure to impart hope and perseverance, offering sympathy for their losses, reassurance about feelings of guilt or pain, and words of encouragement in response to their aspirations.

“Dreams are like oxygen,” Dyer said. “If you don’t have a dream in your heart today, you’re not living.”

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General assignment reporter

Emily Pyrek covers human interest stories, local events and anything involving dogs for the La Crosse Tribune. She is always interested in story ideas and can be contacted at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

(13) comments

Climatehoax

When will other races be given their summit on perseverance? The whites, hispanics and asians will NEED a summit after being denied to this one because they're skin is the wrong color. Hey liberals, let's do this racism thing the correct way. Why stop at a summit, I think these people need their own water fountain, how about they continue to be treated differently and make them enter businesses through the back door. Howabout bus or subway, let's keep the races divided there also, blacks in the front, then asians then hispanics and whites can sit in the rear. WE HAD THIS TYPE OF DIVISION OF RACES BEFORE, IT WAS OUTLAWED, NOW ITS SNEAKING BACK IN THROUGH THESE LIBERAL DOORS.

It's called racism and bigotry, welcome to the world that you accuse conservatives of living in, liberals.

The Guy

I'm not saying that Meldon Moffett is affiliated with a gang, but he's wearing a blue bandana. This is a well known sign of a certain gang affiliation. You can look it up on the internet. He should choose what he wears more wisely.

knowledge is power

Thank you for hosting a much needed opportunity for our youth of color!!! Underrepresented groups need extra support because our world is set up for white, heterosexual, able-bodied, cisgender, Christian males! Until things change underrepresented groups will need our support. Now hate, ignorance and violence has been glorified again!!! We must speak out and stand up to the hate in our community and address the ignorant people we meet and work with!!! We shall overcome!!!

Climatehoax

Mi scusi, you are the typical liberal racist. I pointed out that this summit divides people based on their color. You are so ignorant, I do mean IGNORANT, because you obviously have no clue what causes racism. I'll help educate you, its summits like this that treat people differently based on the color of their skin. Just like liberal diversity, of the b,ack concressiona, caucus, or the black miss America pageant, or scholarships to college for blacks or native Americans or ANYTHING that selerstes races because they deem them to be different. The very people, groups and entities that profess to help a race, is actually promoting RACISM. When any race is given special treatment, another race is being held back or treated inferior. That is dividing and promoting racism.

GrandpaS

And please don't respond that, "Oh, gramps, you know racism and hatred have always been here, and they always will. Nothing we can do about it." Not with an attitude like that, no. Winners make progress. Losers make excuses.

GrandpaS

"Summit encourages La Crosse black, biracial, multi-racial students to persevere." That's a positive and important thing to teach, certainly. But I would add pushing the following concept: " If you are a human being born in America, you are an American citizen. So am I. So why don't we set all this racial bias aside and just respect each other for what we are, not what color we are? How long before the world recognizes the waste of time and energy that racial prejudice is? How long before most of us get sick enough of bigotry to finally just let it go? Why do so many parents keep teaching this hatred to their kids? Did you know that both black and white people can be murderers or cancer researchers? Or rapists or teachers? Or con artists or carpenters? It's not the color of the skin that makes the difference. It's what the person inside that skin makes of him/herself that is important.

Wi Fan

Our school district has a cultural liaison? This event was geared towards 1 very specific group, will there be events held for all groups? We shouldn't discriminate

Wi Fan

Our school district has a cultural liaison? This event was geared towards 1 very specific group, will there be events held for all groups? We shouldn't discriminate

Machiavelli

[angry][angry][angry]Donald J. Trump has made bigotry and misogyny fashionable again. It will take decades to undo the Trump damage even if he loses on Tuesday. A Trump win will mean racial chaos, riots and the KKK back in the saddle.

"Never to have to think of yourself as white is a luxury that makes you deeply stupid." —Leonard Michaels, The Collected Stories

Climatehoax

So your saying it's Donald Trumps fault that this racist summit is being put on? I don't think so. If we want to get rid of racism we must give all races the same opportunity, let me know when the summits for the other races take place, or treat this group differently and be known as racists forever.

Climatehoax

Why single out these groups? Do we really need a summit? Isn't persevering how ALL people make it? Society supposedly doesn't want racism, but people in society keep seperating people based on the color of their skin, which IS racism. At thus rate racism will never end.

Mi scusi

Well said Climatehoax. Continure to divide and we will.

Climatehoax

You are an uneducated, incapable of thinking and figuring things out. You are a racist if you agree with this summit. Let me know when ALL other races are givin summits, or thus act is racist.

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