Lorian Tompkins knew from the time she was 8 that she wanted to have a role in empowering young black men.
Tompkins grew up the youngest of seven children in a household with four older brothers, witnessing how they handled the loss of their father at a young age.
“When I was in high school I had the idea of starting some sort of mentoring program for black men, because I grew up with four big brothers and I got to see the things they did well and the things they struggled in,” she said, taking a break from knitting during a volunteer effort for Hats 4 the Homeless. “Just struggling finding other guys with the same mindset as them, and not having those male figures around them.”
This fall, Tompkins and fellow Eastern Michigan University student Ezekiel Peoples collaborated to help her vision become realized through the creation of the Kings 4 Christ student group. The group meets weekly to gather and support each other with bible studies and service to the community, like their contributions to Hats 4 the Homeless.
While the group has a specific focus on empower young black men, Tompkins said the group aims to be inviting to all, regardless of gender, with its balance of faith topics and support for black men.
“In the beginning we were thinking we wanted to be able to empower black men and give them spaces,” Tompkins said. “But Christianity is about spreading love to everybody so that’s why we thought about doing things like (community service). That’s something that anybody can do.”
After discussing the noticeable lack of Christian organizations with representation from black men on campus, Tompkins worked with Peoples and EMU student Keasa Burbank to create the group.
Peoples said he was moved to be involved with the group after his own experiences revealed that black community members often only came together after a tragedy occurred.
“We tend to dismiss it and not focus on that too much – only when like a tragedy occurs – but if we were constantly a community uplifting one another outside of just things that are going crazy, I feel like there will be a lot more of a bond,” Peoples said.
While attendance has been relatively scant at times for their weekly Thursday meetings, the group is switching to Tuesdays in an effort to attract more members.
Member Desmine Robinson said the faith element of the group is important to him, particularly in his approach to using the group to clear up misconceptions about black Christians, in particular.
“I think it makes him very happy when we serve (Jesus), but we’re doing it on a college campus, which at Eastern, it’s a very liberal campus,” Robinson said. “So, sometimes when people hear about Christians, they think that we’re just like these conservative, hateful people. So, we can use this opportunity and platforms to clear up some of the misconceptions about what it means to be a black Christian.”
For Burbank, the group crosses lines of gender and race when it comes to fulfilling the faith element.
“It sets an example that shows that black men can be uplifted by other people and there are other people rooting for them,” she said.
Written by: Martin Slagter