Return of the King: Celebrating and Appreciating Black Men in TN

We talk to Evonna Nicole, a co-organizer of the community event, A Day to Remember, Return of the King.

Yesterday, September 11 at Coleman Park Community Center at 2 pm CDT, there was a celebration and appreciation of Black men in the community of Nashville, Tennessee. We talked to Evonna Nicole to give us an overview of the program, what inspired her to organize such a program and how she thinks that programs that bring us together in our communities can help foster good relations among us and lead to more development and progress.
First of all, could you please tell us more about yourself and how you’re connected with the organization of the community event: A Day to Remember, Return of the King?
Evonna Nicole
Basically, my best friend Kendra Coleman and I, we just decided to put together an appreciation day for Black men to show them that we appreciate them, we want to encourage them to be the leaders in the community, the fathers, mentors, especially mentors to young guys that don’t have a father figure or don’t have anyone in the community that they can look up to, to guide them in the right direction. So we just started to put something together for them in the community just to encourage them to keep pushing even though the world is attacking them.
Is this the first time this event is taking place?
Evonna Nicole
Oh yes, this is the first time we even put something like this together. But you know what? A lot of people have been coming, or have gone out of their way to sponsor gifts and food and everything. A lot of people have been showing a lot of support.
Could you please tell us more about the community? How do you guys relate with each other on a daily basis?
Evonna Nicole
Well, as far as the Black community in a whole, I feel like it’s not the best relationship with each other, we’re not as close as we should be, we don’t stick out for each other, we don’t take care of each other, especially between men and women. So from that view, in the Black community there’s a lot of crime, domestic violence, and it’s not really just the relations that you would think that we would have as a community. But considering that we have so much post-traumatic stress syndrome, we have mental disorders, all of that plays a role on where we are today as a community.
You mentioned the three most important topics that will be discussed at the event. They are mental health, finances and fitness. Could you tell us, what are the issues related to mental health that the community faces?
Evonna Nicole
Well, I can’t tell exactly who is this and that. But they got a statistician on this who just basically came to us, he gave us the statistics of Black men with mental health issues but they overlook them and that’s part of the reasons why you see a lot of Black people that are homeless, incarcerated. You wouldn’t see them in mental institutions, there are men that I know in the process of finding jobs, even the ones that have families that are not good role models for their children or for their wives or girlfriends. So mental health really plays a major role in the Black community because we are not trained to seek help when something is wrong, we avoid it, some of us are not earning much so we don’t have the proper tools, we don’t have the proper knowledge to seek help when something is wrong mentally, even as far as our overall health. So I’m hoping that once the men are there at the event, they’re able to test them, tell them how to take care of their mental health, if there are some issues they can go and seek help and we’ll give them the proper tools on which doctors to talk to and everything of that nature.
Our online community covers all issues that are important to the Black community across America and we’ve seen several instances where the police sometimes have problems with people with mental illnesses. We have seen some cases which ended in the death of these people. Do you do some work on this issue with the police?
Evonna Nicole
I personally don’t work with the police in regard to this issue but another person that I’m working with, her name is Clemmie Greenlee, she started her own non-profit organization called the Nashville Peacemakers, and it’s basically making people aware of police brutality and gun violence in the Black community. But I think that it’s something that we should work towards as a community, having better relationships with the police department. I don’t want to say that all police are the same because I understand the need for police, but I wish there was a way that we could all come together and reiterate the importance of the police in our community and an effective way for them to assist us when we need them but not brutalize us, not attack us, harass us, like all of that needs to stop. But I really feel that we’re going to get to that point where we’re able to communicate with the police effectively to kind of make the relations between the Black community and the police department better.
So what are you going to discuss about finances?
Evonna Nicole
I believe that the speaker will speak on the general finances of the community. I believe he’s also going to share ways that we can save better, that we can invest in ourselves, if we want to start businesses, I believe he’s going to speak on ways that we can work together, assist each other, support each other so we can proceed with our business interests. But I’m hoping that the finance portion helps someone in need of starting their own business, someone that’s wanting to save for a better future for their children and themselves, and I’m hoping he offers his own point of the Black community as a whole, because as you know, big banks won’t give a Black person a loan for a company or a business venture like they would if they were Asian or white or another race. They are going to be pretty hesitant when it comes to a Black person. So we’re just encouraging them to keep their finances in order.
What are you going to be discussing concerning fitness? Do you have any programs or ideas in place to improve this?
Evonna Nicole
I don’t have any programs in place but the speaker, he is a physio therapist. He’s also a fitness major, so he has a lot of surprising things in store for the men that he’s going to be speaking with tomorrow. The only thing that I can tell you yet is just to tune in, we are going to be streaming live on Facebook, Periscope and SnapChat. We’re also going to have this filmed, we’ll have a lot of videographers there. So if you want a little bit more insight, I would definitely tell you to tune in because I personally don’t know for sure what the guys have in mind as far as presenting. But I can only tell you to look forward to a good presentation, a very uplifting, diverse panel that’s going to educate, we’re going to uplift each other and hopefully we can build better relationships, networks and build brotherhoods while we’re there.
And do you plan to make this something of an annual program where it will happen every year or do you plan to organize similar events more often?
Evonna Nicole
This is our first annual appreciation day, Return of the King. My goal is to have it every year. Each year I want to incorporate more speakers on different topics that are relevant to the community in its current state. So that’s the goal, to have it every year, or maybe every few months, but it’s all about the feedback that we get and ways that we can make it better each year. I’m totally down for having it every other month or every year, whichever is needed in the community, that’s how we’re going to proceed.
Have you gotten any kind of support from some groups or city officials?
Evonna Nicole
For city officials I can’t say for sure. We’ve reached out to numerous people, we’ve had about three radio interviews, we’ve gotten on magazine issues, we have people that work within the government that will be in attendance but as far as actual city officials, no one has reached back out to us, which is fine. I understand that people have their own different schedules or what have you but I believe that the people that are supposed to be there and need to hear this will be there.
Is there anything that you’d like to say about the event to our readers about why they should come and take part?
Evonna Nicole
I’m hoping that this event will open doors to other people in different cities that want to do something similar to this, to kind of get the conversation started within the Black community. It doesn’t have to be anything this big, it doesn’t have to be extravagant, it just has to be real, enlightening, and encouraging. We can’t be belittling each other, we just really have to be supportive right now because it kind of feels like the world is against us especially America and we just have to learn together, we have to get the mindset back where our village is raising us. We are the village, we need to stick together, and we need to support each other. It only takes a conversation between 3-5 people. After you get that going you can expand it to 10 people and keep going. We really need to make this a nationwide thing and we need to have this type of events, these types of movements every single month until the problem is corrected.

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