Black Impact Conference


Students joke around as they wait for the buses to arrive and take them to the University of Colorado Denver. (Caley)

Feature Photo By: Jayah Caley – (From left to right) senior girls Beimnet Mulugeta, Hana Fentahun, Firan Wolde, and Talile Geshow pose for a picture as they wait for the closing speeches to begin. Fentahun said the conference helped her become motivated — especially because she was surrounded by successful black leaders.

By: Jayah Caley and Nealani Elliston, Review Staff 

Friday, February 8th, students had the chance to attend the 6th annual Black Impact Conference at the University of Colorado Denver. The conference is there as, “an event designed to bring attention to Colorado’s educational culture gap and to encourage group and individual ownership of youth’s education and development.” This conference is an opportunity for black high school students from Colorado to come together in a comfortable environment.

At the conference, you are surrounded by black men and women all of whom are: educated, successful, and willing to be a source to help all of the young black students succeed.

Sophomore Jasiri Grimes said, ”It [the conference] impacted me by giving me the motivation to be proud of who I am no matter what anyone tells me– I am black and proud.”

The last two years the day’s schedule was pretty similar:

  • Arrive
  • Breakfast
  • Opening speeches
  • Session 1
  • Lunch
  • Session 2
  • Closing speeches
  • Awards/Scholarships

Junior Kyah Caley said, “The Black Impact Conference allowed me to see successful African Americans and how they accomplished so much, even though they were brought up in a society that’s set up against them.”

Students talk about the topic at hand in “Mind, Body, Soul, & Art”. In this session, everyone seemed engaged throughout. (Jayah Caley)


Jayah’s experience:

This was my second year attending the Black Impact Conference — I don’t want it to be my last time either.

My freshman year, I initially signed up because I wanted a day off of school with some friends, but, the conference genuinely left me and many others speechless.

When I walked in there were so many different types of kids that I saw: kids who looked like they were popular, kids who had beautiful hair, kids who were a bit more introverted, and kids that were definitely extroverted, but we all had one thing in common: our blackness.

I remember feeling impacted after only the opening speeches. Sophomore Jasiri Grimes said, “I left taking away that I have to be me; a strong, young black man.”

They had a few people start by sharing their stories and presumptuously getting all of us to realize that this conference will be whatever we choose to make it. It can either be just another day off of school or we could use the time and space to network, communicate, learn, and meet more people alike.

My first session was Mind, Body, Soul, & Art led by Momma Auset (Dr. Auset Maryam Ali). In this session, it was mainly RHS students (being that we had the biggest amount of students attend) and a few other students from another school. Immediately as I walked in Momma Auset had positive, intriguing energy radiating off of her.

Photo by: Jayah Caley

She started by having us make a beat and then introduce ourselves to the beat. When she had us do this we were all laughing because we were “shook”, but as we got into it people started to get into it and it began to feel more natural. She brought up some black history within the United States— the fact that when “we” were stolen from our land and brought to the US to be sold, beaten, separated, etc. “we” would use music as our form of communication.

Momma Auset said, “…because of capitalism, white people, compromise, all this stuff came in and now hip-hop is everywhere and “we” have no piece of the riches.”

Black people were taken from different places which meant, not everyone spoke the same language. Once being brought to America they weren’t given the opportunity to learn and become educated, this meant they usually couldn’t read. This lead to the use of song to find freedom and communicate amongst one another. Harriet Tubman used music to lead slaves to freedom and Momma Auset was sure to remind us that music bleeds through our veins.

Momma Auset said, “No white folks, it’s not okay for you to say n**** just because it’s in the song.”

The most impactful things that I took out of Momma Auset’s session was that we all need to own our blackness and advocate for ourselves. She reminded us to never stop advocating for ourselves, to stop letting white people write — our — history, and to never let the comments made about hip-hop by older generations stop us from continuing to express ourselves and our culture.  

Auset said, “Go to school or not, stay black. College ain’t for everybody, entrepreneurship ain’t for everybody–but what is for everybody is our blackness.”

I learned to not let the color of my skin dictate my own success as an individual in a society, country, and world that merely sees me as a minority.


Nealani’s experience:

This was my first time attending The Black Impact Conference and it was as much fun as it was informative.

The session that spoke to me the most was ‘The Audacity to Hope’ led by Quincy “Q” Shannon. He is a current activist and protest leader, you may recognize him from many Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country – including the St. Louis mall protest in regards to the Mike Brown case.

The session focused on his experience of being an activist.

Students joke around as they wait for the buses to arrive and take them to the University of Colorado Denver. (Caley)

His first story began with his first protest in Missouri where he had gone to check on his family and join the many other protestors in front of the police station. He said there were many police officers and some were dressed more like soldiers. He described the anxiety that rose in his chest as snipers watched every move he made and the agonizing pain he and other protestors felt as they breathed in tear gas, puss forming in their eyes, water only making it worse. By the end of his story, many described themselves as feeling scared, hopeless even, but one student threw out words such as empowered to which many nodded their heads in agreement.


Shannon said, “The ability to learn and grow gives us the chance to evolve, which is essential to our survival,” he went on to say, “the benefits to having a conference and programs like Black Impact is that in its existence it acknowledges and affirms that black lives matter.”  

Shannon encouraged youth to be the change– take full advantage of our opportunities to be properly educated and do what generations before us couldn’t. Stand up.

Shannon ended with a Youtube video of artist Mumu Fresh singing for one of the NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. The song raises awareness for African American police shooting victims, specifically the case of Sandra Bland. Click here if you’d like to check out.

All in all, the Black Impact Conference taught me that I am not less than my non-black counterparts.

I felt encouraged to be proud of my African roots, instead of standing by and waiting for more of us to die, stand up and fight for the rights I do have. The power of education is greater than any, and a power no one can take away from me. This was very beneficial and I’d highly recommend it to students looking to be or already empowered by the color of their skin.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.”

— Malcolm X