The 2021 Black Lens Symposium

"Setting the record and agenda straight"


January 30 2021
Starting at 9 a.m.



Thank you for your interest. Tickets are no longer available.

Sold Out!

One day geared toward the uplift and celebration of black men,
Acknowledging our history and affirming who we are

The 2021 Black Lens Symposium brought to you by Substantial Media, LLC, and the Institute For Building Communities By Design, LLC is a series of panel conversations around black duality, black centricity, black history, black reciprocity and the future of being black in America. Join us as we discuss with a number of experts, thought-leaders and community members across a range of sectors the following topics:

Building and Sustaining Black Wealth

Black men and women have been shortchanged out of the materials to build wealth for far too long in our country, but the tides seem to be shifting in our favor. How do we continue to leverage and find new ways to close the racial wealth gap?

Black and Blue, Policing Our Community

Majorities of both black and white Americans say black people are treated less fairly than whites in dealing with the police and by the criminal justice system as a whole. Between protests and policy demands to "defund and reform our nations police departments, was 2020 a tipping point? What has it meant to be both BLACK and don a uniform?

Black Mental Health and Well-Being

Research suggests that Black men are more likely to serve as informal rather than formal mentors. While developing close and supportive mentoring relationships may be a mechanism by which mentoring promotes positive outcomes in Black boys, we ask what are the real implications to building strong relationships rather formal or informal with Black men and boys.

The Speakers

Black Lens Speakers

Symposium Schedule

packed with high quality content.

9:00 a.m.

Welcome and Overview

Black Lens SpeakersOrganizer: Greg Hedgepeth
President & CEO
Substantial Media, LLC

Black Lens SpeakersOrganizer: Darryl Lester
Founder, Institute For Building Communities By Design

Black Lens SpeakersEmcee: Dr. Lathan E. Turner
Associate Director
East Carolina University
Author, Mentor & Business Owner

9:10 a.m.

Opening Keynote: What History Has Taught Us

Black Lens SpeakersJames White
Executive VP of Organizational Relations, YMCA of the Triangle

9:45 a.m.

Black and Blue, Policing Our Community

Black Lens SpeakersModerator: Kevin Stormer
Law Enforcement Lieutenant
Community Advocate and Business Owner

Black Lens SpeakersSpecial Guests:
Attorney, Ben Crump

Ben Crump Law

Black Lens SpeakersAttorney, Antonio Romanucci
Romanucci & Blandin, LLC

Black Lens SpeakersChief Jason P. Armstrong

Chief of Police
Ferguson Police Department

Black Lens SpeakersTerry Brown
Attorney, Coach, Mentor and Community Advocate

Black Lens SpeakersChief Jermaine Cherry
Chief of Police
Johnson C. Smith University

Black Lens Speakers Chief Henry A. King Jr.
Chief of Police
Edenton Police Department
Department of The Secretary of State Task Force Officer
Task Force Officer Homeland Security Investigations
Police Executive Research Forum 67 Session
AOMP 69 Session
Region IX Director, North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police

Black Lens SpeakersGarrett Taylor
CEO, UPLIFT Comprehensive Services & The Power of U, Inc.
Author and Community Advocate

Black Lens SpeakersChief Damon D. Williams
Director of Public Safety
Chief of Police
North Carolina Central University
Secretary/Treasurer, North Carolina Association Chief of Police

10:45 a.m.

Breakout Session #1 - Black Mental Health and Well-Being

Black Lens SpeakersModerator: Jasmin L. Spain
Founder & CVO, The M.A.I.N. Initiative
Founder & President, U Good Bro, Inc.
Assistant VP - Student Support, Pitt Community College

Black Lens Speakers Dr. Kwesi Brookins

Associate Professor of Psychology
(Applied Social and Community) and Africana Studies
NC State University

Black Lens SpeakersDr. Marc Grimmett
Professor, Counselor Education Program Coordinator,
Founder and co-director of the Community Counseling, Education,
and Research Center (CCERC) at NC State University

Black Lens SpeakersKenneth Joyner
Therapeutic Interactions Counseling Services, PLLC

Black Lens SpeakersKelly Little
Author, Transformational Coach,
Empowerment Speaker, Workforce Development Leader, Fatherhood Advocate

Black Lens SpeakersDonald Norwood
Light-Work Resources/Purpose Driven Empowerment & Mental Health Coach

Breakout Session #2 - What Real Mentoring Looks Like

Black Lens SpeakersModerator: Troy Johnson
Founder & Visionary
Young Men 4 Christ (YM4C)

Black Lens SpeakersDr. Roderick Heath

Director, African-American Male Initiative
North Carolina Central University

Black Lens SpeakersWillie Joyner
Pitt County School Administrator
Founder of HYPE (Helping Yourself with Pride through Education)

Black Lens SpeakersCornelius Kirk
Founder, YOU MATTER 2, LLC

Breakout Session #3 - Community Philanthropy and Development: Unpacking Our "self-help, mutual aid, and giving back"

Black Lens SpeakersModerator: Darryl Lester
Founder, Institute For Building Communities By Design, LLC

Black Lens SpeakersTyran Hill
Program Officer
North Carolina Community Foundation

Black Lens SpeakersJermaine McNair
Nonprofit Director & Community Organizer
NC Civil

Black Lens SpeakersJames Sullivan
Ambassador, MILLEN Forward

Breakout Session #4 - The State of Black Leadership and Black Business

Black Lens SpeakersModerator: Leonardo Williams
Business Owner, Social Entrepreneur and Community Advocate
Zweli's NC and PHASE 3 Group, Inc

Black Lens SpeakersRepresentative Zack Hawkins

North Carolina General Assembly

Black Lens SpeakersRyan Mitchell
CEO of Pitmaster Enterprises LLC
Co-founder @ True Made Foods
"Cut the Sugar and Keep the Flavor"

Black Lens SpeakersErroll Reese
Owner/Founder, Host/Executive Producer
The Sports Shop Radio

Black Lens SpeakersMark Woodson
Owner, Five Prime Media Group
Former Franchise Owner/Operator

11:25 a.m.

Same as 10:45 Sessions

Take this moment to join another session and hear from our dynamic breakout speakers & panelists

12:00 p.m.

Closing Keynote: Owning 2021

Black Lens SpeakersDonald Thompson
CEO, Walk West
Founder & CEO, The Diversity Movement
Serial entrepreneur, Investor and Author

12:40 p.m.

Grab your lunch and join us for an optional networking & reflection session

Brought to you by: U Good Bro Inc.
Join us as we reflect and discuss all that took place and was said during the 2021 Black Lens Symposium. Any and all participants will have an opportunity to share during this facilitated discussion. We want to hear your thoughts and opinions.


I truly enjoyed the 2020 Black Lens Symposium and can't wait to be a part of this event in 2021.
Hat's off to the organizers Greg and Darryl for creating a safe space for us to talk about the challenges and history of our people. I will certainly be here next year!
I hate that we won't be able to gather together for this event in 2021, but I'm grateful that you all are keeping it going. We need conversations like this to help us plan, network and progress.

Why is this conference for you?

A space to tell it like it is

We had a heck of a 2020! We deserve and need spaces to talk about how we made it through and how we will continue to forge ahead. The 2021 Black Lens Symposium looks to create a space that allows open dialogue between panelist and participants.

Find new ways of thinking and problem-solving

We've got to continue to think critically and strategically about how we move the needle and our communities forward. Come ready to ask questions and challenge your own status quo.

Networking opportunities

No one has ever really made it alone. It's been said a number of ways "show me your network and I'll tell you your future." The value of developing a strong network is key to our ability to cope and succeed.

Strengthen Your Skills and Sharpen You Sword

We Are Substantial and so is everything about us. We know this and we must continue to build on the solid foundation those before us laid. We are the next John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, James Baldwin, Martin, Malcolm, W. E. B. Du Bois and every other great we proudly share our brotherhood with.

Check out last years symposium

   • Read 2020 Black Lens Symposium write-up
   • See 2020 Black Lens Symposium Photos

Registration & Support

Only 300 available seats Claim your space Early.

We believe the empowering and educating of our people should be free of charge, but we also acknowledge it takes the support of those willing to ensure it is. Registration for the Black Lens Symposium in years past has been FREE and we want to keep it that way through meaningful partnerships and collobrations. Interested in supporting! Take a look at our tiered sponsorship packages and connect with us on how you'd like to support the 2021 Black Lens Symposium.Email us at

This is a FREE event, however we do ask that registrants seal their committment to joining us with a minimum donation to ensure their spot. Again you can give as little as $1 or as much as you'd like as we continue to find meaningful ways to engage our community.

Thank you to our sponsors

Black Lens Sponsors

Our Virtual Venue

In an effort to remain as safe and socially distant as possible the entire 2021 Black Lens Symposium will take place online.


All sessions will take place via the Hopin virtual events platform

Additional details

Check back on this website or reach out to us directly at to learn more about the 2021 Black Lens Symposium and how you can support and get involved.