Special guests at tonight's “There is Power in Your Hands” event will include (Clockwise from top left): Brian Benford, Michael Richardson, Darren Clay, Veron Brown and Martinez White 

Ruby Clay is the founder of Black Girls United, a group that gives teen Black girls in the Madison area a place to share their voices in a safe place to be heard. For many years, she has hosted numerous inspirational events with girls, including a successful event last August. After the latest event, she started to get a variety of Inbox messages from men.

“They wanted to know when I was going to hold something for men. I had parents asking if I was going to do anything for the youth boys,” Clay remembers. “Honestly, a part of me was like, ‘Oh, no. I’m going to stay in my lane. I work with teen girls.’ I hadn’t really thought about doing something with boys.

“But it really weighed on my heart how many people were reaching out. Vernon Brown was like, ‘Hey, I would love to come and be a part of it.’ Martinez White said that, too,” she adds. “People kept popping up wanting to do something with the boys and I was like, ‘OK. Let’s put something together.’”

With that in mind, Clay’s Black Girls United will present “There Is Power In Your Hands” tonight at 6 p.m. at The Bur Oak on Madison’s east side. The event will be a space for young boys of color to come and hear lived experiences from Black men who have overcome some of the barriers young males of color face on a daily basis.

Special guests at tonight’s event will include Brian Benford, Martinez White, Vernon Brown, Darren Clay, and Michael Richardson. Each will speak at the event and take time to answer questions.

Clay is putting the event all together but then she’s going to step back.

“This is for youth boys and men to come together. I keep telling all the guys on the panel that I want to be in the background. I will do an introduction and then I’m going to head to the back because I want them to feel safe in this space,” she says. “I want the boys to hear from these men and be hopeful and inspired.

“I know all of these men’s stories and they are inspirational. I know the hardships they have faced and the barriers they have overcome to be who they are today,” she adds. “If I was a young male, I would want to hear what these men have to say.”

The event will take place at The Bur Oak on Winnebago Street on Madison’s near east side. There will be snacks and refreshments at the event provided by gift cards from Costco.

“Anthony Cooper will bring the pizza for the night,” Clay says. “I really appreciate that.”  

The target audience for the event is middle-to-high-school boys.

“I have been getting a lot of parents [asking about the event] whose kiddos are like 10 and some that are even 8 years old,” Clay says. “This is what I’ve been telling parents, ‘If you feel like your kids are mature enough to be in that space and hear very real and raw stories and be able to take something away from them, then at your discretion you can bring them.’

“The stories are going to get real. I just want them to know that. I trust that parents will use their best judgment,” she adds.

“There Is Power In Your Hands” will be following all safety precautions for COVID-19 by social distancing, providing masks and hand sanitizers. Those who cannot attend in person will be able to watch the event on Facebook Live or a Zoom link.

“It’s really about the boys – them asking the questions of the panelists that they want to ask and making the space their own. A lot of them are dealing with the same issues that these men once went through,” Clay says. “I think it’s going to be a great event. I’m very excited about it.” 

Black Girls United will present “There Is Power In Your Hands” Friday, March 12, 6-8 p.m. at the Burr Oak, 2262 Winnebago St. For more information contact Ruby Clay at ruby_clay@yahoo.com.