Noted Author and Culture Critic Roland Laird Leads Discussions

344

On The Role of Black Alumni Associations in the 21st Century

Nationally acclaimed culture critic, arts entrepreneur and Trenton resident Roland Laird enters the Fall months at the helm of two noteworthy panels – the first taking place at Brown University, followed by The New Jersey Black Issues Convention’s 28th Annual Black Leadership Convention – both of which examine the role of Black alumni as it relates to funneling resources back into the community.

With the topic’s foundation based on a piece Laird wrote in late 2009 for MSNBC’s TheGrio.com titled “Black alums must organize, activate for community,” Laird’s argument was, and still remains, that just as alumni encourage their universities to pump dollars into various programs and university departments, Black alumni need to encourage them to funnel resources into the community. The support of Black alumni of Universities cuts to the core of what “Black Power” can mean in the 21st century, for that sentiment means black people collectively can use the resources at their disposal to help other black people succeed – and this is applicable in a variety of walks of life.

On Saturday, September 25, during Brown University’s Black Alumni Reunion 2010, Laird – an ’82 graduate Brown – will moderate the discussion “Giving Back through Non-Profit Alumni Organizations.” Panelists include Teri Williams, President of OneUnited Bank – the first Black-owned internet bank, the first Black-owned interstate bank and the largest Black-owned and managed bank in the country; William “Sandy” Darity, Arts & Sciences Professor of Public Policy Studies and Professor of African and African American Studies and Economics at Duke University; Donna Lambert, Strategy and Change Lean Six Sigma Consultant for IBM; and Atiba Mbiwan, Associate Director of The Zeist Foundation – a family foundation based in Atlanta that supports nonprofits who serve children and youth. The focus of the panel will be on the role black alumni associations play in the 21st century. Is the role of the Brown University’s Inman Page Black Council Alumni association exclusively to give money to Brown in the spirit of getting more black students into the university? Or can it play a meaningful role in the black community at large? The assumption is that it can, but requires a multidimensional look at our relationship with Brown.

On Thursday, October 7, at The New Jersey Black Issues Convention’s 28th Annual Black Leadership Convention, Laird will moderate a workshop on the topic of “Strengthening our communities through Black Alumni Associations.” Held at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick, the panel will discuss, amongst other things, how Black alumni should encourage universities to funnel their financial and educational resources back into the community, along with alumni collectively using their talents and capabilities to benefit those seeking higher education. Panelists include: Dr. Tracey Enlow of Rutgers University, Melda Grant of Howard University, Tiffani Scott of Brown University, Baye Kemit of Clark Atlanta University, and Darius Enlow of Rutgers University.

A resident of Trenton, NJ, Roland Laird is a nationally acclaimed author, culture critic, and entertainment entrepreneur with a passion for his community. A widely-received columnist, his writing appears weekly in the African American news and culture outlet TheLoop21.com, monthly in the international culture and music magazine PopMatters and daily on Examiner.com. He is also a frequent contributor to The Washington Post’s TheRoot.com, and The Grio, the first video-centric news community site, produced through the cooperation of MSNBC.

In August 2010, Laird was appointed a key adviser to Studio City New Jersey, a film and media production complex founded by filmmaker and photographer Shelton Minor, and only the fourth African American owned studio facility in the US. It is the first in New Jersey. For Studio City New Jersey, Laird provides his business development expertise to refine the studio’s growth strategy, ramp up marketing, and secure funds to complete the build-out of the 85,000 square foot facility in Trenton, New Jersey.

In February 2009, Roland re-released, Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans, a critically acclaimed work co-authored with his wife Taneshia, with an impressive scope: the entire history of Black America told in an accessible 216 page graphic-novel form. Originally published in 1997, it was updated and now extends from the arrival of the first Africans in 1619 right through to Senator Barack Obama’s groundbreaking presidential campaign. Compared by many to Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Still I Rise is a breathtaking achievement that celebrates the collective African-American memory, imagination, and spirit and the book has been embraced by colleges and schools throughout the country.

In addition, Roland is the co-founder and managing director of My Image Studios (MIST), a ten million dollar entertainment venue based in Harlem and scheduled to open in late 2011. This multifaceted 20,000 square foot venue will feature the art and culture of the African, Latino Diaspora and include 3 screening rooms, a restaurant, cafe and post-production facility. MIST is located in the Kalahari Condominiums, a 250 unit mixed income LEED certified “green” building. MIST will be the first green convergent entertainment complex in the United States.

To stay up to date on Laird’s projects, visit www.posro.com