RECAP: The State of the African American Male

| Shelley Stern Grach

With nearly 1,000 attendees of all ages, including students, parents, community leaders, faith-based leaders, noted activists and some true civic rights legends, the Congressman’s tireless staff created an agenda to inspire, lead, show appreciation and create pathways for African American Youth to lead successful, productive lives. The Microsoft team had the pleasure of supporting this energizing event through technology demonstrations and a personal story presentation by Terrance Gillespie, from our Microsoft Retail Store.

UIC Forum

The program was held at the UIC Forum and included a warm welcome from Mr. Michael Amiridis, Chancellor, the University of Illinois at Chicago. His message was: “Welcome to UIC. This is your home. We want you to continue your education here.” There was a video from Mayor Emanuel and from Kenny Williams, EVP of the Chicago White Sox. There were inspiring musical interludes from Airrel Cole, prayers and a moving poem from KG Giles, from the organization Women of Power—KG spoke about “The Power of a Black Man” and received a standing, cheering ovation. Perhaps for me the highest impact was hearing from the keynote, Thomas Todd, aka “TNT” due to his oratory style. TNT is a lawyer, former professor and community activist. If you look him up online, you will also see that TNT is part of “The History Makers,” the nation’s largest African American oral history collection. What a story he told! As he was challenging the youth (and the adults) to be fully present and engaged in making a difference, the comment that stays with me is: “You can’t download freedom”. Read more about TNT and his colleagues here.

Thomas Todd, AKA “TNT”

The afternoon included smaller roundtable workshops, for an inclusive dialog among the participants. The topics included:

  • Economic Opportunity
  • Jobs and Workforce Skills
  • Public Health and Violence
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse
  • Reentry/Second Chance, Public Safety
  • Women
  • Youth Track and Technology Track

Microsoft’s wonderful Terrance Gillespie gave a presentation during the Youth Track, telling his story and what life is like working at Microsoft. In addition, the Retail Store had a demonstration table with several fun, engaging devices that that students (and adults) could play with.

Congratulations to Congressman Davis, his wonderful staff, especially Tumia Romero, to the parents, community leaders and especially the students for spending a Saturday on personal enrichment and development. Microsoft Chicago was honored to participate in this important event and we are inspired by the leadership and the energy and we look forward to future participation.

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Shelley Stern Grach

They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.