The Student News Site of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Sentinel

The Student News Site of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Sentinel

The Student News Site of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Sentinel

The Eighteenth Annual Black Male Initiative: Empowering the Next Generation


On October 6th, 2023, CUNY hosted the eighteenth annual Black Male Initiative Conference at Queens College; students at John Jay shared the meaning of the event with them.

Black employees make up just 5% of the senior manager and VP workforce and 4% at the SVP level. Only about 1% of Fortune 500 CEO positions are held by Black executives, according to CNBC. This conference where attendees from different CUNYs gathered to learn about ways to improve themselves and boost their careers works to address that issue. 

The conference speakers included hip-hop superstar Ja Rule and entrepreneur Champ Nichols. 

Each speaker told of their individual hardships and victories, emphasizing building a legacy in entrepreneurship and business. For instance, Champ Nichols, who was raised in New York, went on to build Shark Speakers, a public speaker management and consulting firm. Similarly, Ja Rule, who was raised in Queens, New York, went on to sell 20 million records

Champ Nichols, the keynote speaker, spoke about the challenges he faced moving up the corporate ladder without a college education and how going back and getting a degree from Queens College empowered him to build entrepreneurial skills.

“With the skills I learned here at CUNY, I went to work and made strong partnerships,” said Nichols.

Many attendees were incredibly excited to hear hip-hop legend Ja Rule and were inspired to express themselves and their struggles through art continuously. 

Rahele Gadapaka, a John Jay senior, explained how hearing success stories of people from underrepresented communities empowered her to chase her own dreams. 

“Seeing these speakers that come from a place similar to where I come from shows me how an entrepreneurial mindset will allow me to uplift myself and my family,” said Gadapaka. 

Ja Rule commented on the character of black people and the origins of hip-hop in his speech.

“Black people are incredibly resilient, a resilience that came from our hardships,” said Ja Rule. “From this hardship came a beautiful art form: hip hop.” 

Workshops followed the speech and were centered around healthy financial habits and building generational wealth. Some of the workshops included entrepreneurship and wealth management seminars. 

In these workshops, speakers, most of whom worked as business executives, explained how their personal habits, such as investments in 401 K accounts and investing in the stock market, allowed them to provide for themselves and their families. Following short speeches, the classes were opened up for students to ask these executives questions.

Aaliyah Antrobus, a senior at John Jay, explained how these workshops taught her important life skills.

“Seeing the personal habits of these successful people, who each came from underprivileged backgrounds, helped me realize that my dreams are attainable,” said Antrobus.

Shrouk Elbarsiky, a senior at John Jay, mirrored such sentiment as she explained how the skills she learned would change her behavior. 

“The information I learned about investing in retirement funds and stocks through the workshop is priceless. This inspires me to go research about stocks and investing,” said Elbarsiky.

These impactful workshops were then followed by a career and internship fair, which gave attendees a chance to network amongst themselves and with a variety of employers, such as the Internal Revenue Service and Amazon. 

Hector Martinez, a senior at John Jay, expresses how networking with other students gave him insight into the perspectives and career paths of other students. 

“Meeting with students from other BMI programs and networking with recruiters gave me insight on internship and career opportunities,” said  Martinez.

Israel Tavera, a senior at John Jay, explained that connecting to employers has allowed him to make meaningful connections with recruiters. 

“Speaking to recruiters and staff at this fair allows me to have a deeper understanding of the internship positions I apply for,” said Tavera.

Antrobus added that this conference gave students from underrepresented communities an experience that empowered them to set high standards for themselves and work hard towards their goals. 

“This conference inspires us all to believe in our own success,” said Aaliyah Antrobus.

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About the Contributor
Parsva Shah
Parsva Shah, Web Editor
Parsva Shah is currently a senior at John Jay College. He majors in philosophy and law & society. He’s worked previously as a staff writer within The Sentinel.  Parsva’s passion for writing is intertwined with his deep-rooted love for reading. He enjoys reading court cases, philosophy works, and political commentary. As a staff writer, Parsva enjoyed exploring different viewpoints and representing opinions on important issues that impact the John Jay community.  In the future, Parsva plans to go on to law school and serve the New York community as an attorney. Within John Jay, he is also a part of the BMI Rising Scholars of Justice Program as well as part of the Office of Student Research and Creativity. Parsva’s favorite story he has written is “CUNY Student’s Reaction to the Migrant Crisis.” Although a hot-button issue, understanding different points of view to create a cohesive article was a process that allowed Parsva to grow as a writer and a journalist.  A quote that inspires Parsva is “Journalism is history’s first draft." He’s driven by his passion for helping people express their opinions and hopes that as a Web Editor, he could mentor staff writers and help them publish meaningful articles.

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