The Blueprint 2019 Men’s Summit: Celebrities gather here to mentor, inspire inner city youth
Hollywood personalities Will Packer and Hill Harper; performers Doug E. Fresh and DJ D Nice; and sports figures including Joe Dumars and Orlando Pace are among a slew of celebrities converging here for the event.
Filmmaker Will Packer is multi-tasking, chatting while preparing for his trip to the grand opening earlier this month of entertainment mogul Tyler Perry’s new studios — a historic weekend that drew all of black Hollywood’s top names to Atlanta.
Perry’s studio, sprawled over 330 acres of a former Confederate army base, is the kind of pioneering journey Packer and a host of other celebrities now headed to Chicago hope to share with 150 young black males here.
“We want to talk about breaking the cycle and starting a new cycle,” Packer, 45, who has some 30 films to his credit and is believed the only African American filmmaker to notch 10 films opening No. 1 at the box office, said on the weekend of Perry’s gala.
“I’m talking about the cycle of negativity that too many times we have in African American families — fatherless homes or absentee fathers, broken relationships between sons and fathers. We want to give our young black men access to people like myself and others — to hear our stories,” Packer said.
“That’s important because they don’t get a chance to hear these stories. They need to see successful men who look like them from a variety of industries and walks of life,” said the creator of such films as “What Men Want,” “Girls Trip,” “Ride Along,” and “Think Like A Man.”
Hollywood personalities Hill Harper and Judge Mathis; performers Doug E. Fresh and DJ D Nice; sports figures such as NBA Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, Pro Football Hall of Famer Orlando Pace, and NFL Super Bowl Champ Roland “Big Ro” Williams, are among those converging for “The Blueprint Men’s Summit,” Friday and Saturday at the W Chicago - City Center.
The brainchild of Louis Carr, Chicago-based president of media sales for BET Networks, the annual summit, now in its third year, invites community groups to send young men from Chicago’s inner city for mentoring. This year’s teens come from Boys Hope Girls Hope, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Lawrence Hall, Project Gentlemen, The Support Group, and others.
“I’ve been on this journey a long time. I’m trying to pay back a debt I know I can never repay,” said Carr, 63, an executive of 33 years with BET, who remains the only African American heading up national sales for a major cable company.
“And that’s the debt that I owe to so many people who saw something in me before I saw it in myself — teachers, professors, coaches, neighbors,” Carr said.
“When I was in high school, a coach once yelled at me: ‘Louis, you need to make a decision. Are you going to be good, or are you going to be great?’ That moment changed my life. I didn’t know it was up to me. I want these young boys too, to realize they are in control of that.”
The teens will discuss politics, health, relationships, the need for tech skills and the influence of media images and music lyrics. On the second day, there’s an all-star panel for a lunch discussion titled “From the Block to the Boardroom.”
“All of us come from neighborhoods like theirs, and we want them to leave with a clear idea success is possible. Not a bed of roses, but we pushed through. They can too,” Carr said.
Packer said his journey to a cache of films grossing over $1 billion wasn’t easy.
“I was raised by two amazing and nurturing parents who instilled in me the belief that I could do anything, could accomplish anything I set my mind to or was willing to work hard for,” said Packer.
He graduated Florida A&M University with an electrical engineering degree.
“But I ultimately ended up in an industry I didn’t know much about, with no resources or connections,” said Packer, who eventually made his first film, the 2000 “Trois,” on his own, self-distributing six more before Hollywood came looking for him. He broke through with “Stomp The Yard” in 2007, and never looked back.
“The commonality between myself and these young men is that they too have dreams. I know about people telling you your dreams will never become reality, because I was told all those things,” Packer said.
“It’s so easy to just give up and say, ‘My environment is negative, and I don’t have much, so I don’t have much value.’ I want to tell them, ‘Remember that you are valuable. Remember that you are important, special, precious and unique.’ And that just continues the cycle. My hope is that we start a new, more positive cycle for these young men.”