TULSA, Okla. (AP)— Black males are living in a dangerous time but can succeed by believing in themselves and pursuing their education, Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Tom Colbert said during a symposium on the problems black males face in America.
The symposium, "African American Men at the Corner of Progress and Peril," was held Friday at Langston University-Tulsa.
Colbert, the first Black to serve on the state's Supreme Court, said Black men are an endangered species and that by 2020, 4.5 million Black males are expected to be in prison.
Colbert said seven out of 10 Black babies are born out of wedlock and 50 percent of Black high school freshmen won't graduate.
"Black men are misguided," said Art Williams, coordinator of the university's sociology department and host of the event.
The daylong event included workshops ranging from education, employment and economics, criminal justice, fatherhood, health, hip-hop and the media.
Colbert motivated attendees to recognize and overcome the obstacles they face. He told how his high school counselor spoke to his class and advised students to stop by the counselor's office to discuss college.
When Colbert visited the counselor, he was told the advice wasn't meant for him. He said the counselor told him he couldn't attend college and should attend trade school.
Colbert also discussed how he grew up in a poor family with his mother caring for five children alone. Though he managed to succeed, Colbert said there are many Blacks who continue to have disadvantaged childhoods.
"These problems are subtle and no one is sounding the alarm," he said.
Symposium participants said they would take Colbert's advice to heart.
"I learned that you have to persevere and not let anyone bring you down," said Kevin Joseph, 12, of KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory. "If your life is going bad, it can always turn around."