PORTLAND, Ore. -- It took place inside a large, unassuming conference room at Portland’s Double Tree Hotel, and on the surface, it looked like any other hotel conference.
But organizers say, in today's world, they truly hope what happened inside the first ever Black Men & Boys Healing Summit creates a ripple effect that spreads far and wide.
“It's important to be able to recognize the role that trauma plays in their life,” said attendee Travis Gamble.
Much of that trauma, people at the summit admit, is exacerbated by frequent headlines of strained race relations across the U.S.
Some of it comes centered around police shootings of African-American men, many unarmed.
It's a trend that's sparked anger and protests here in Portland, and it's one of many issues people here want to talk about and work through.
“It’s a way for us to look within and analyze the resources we have and to utilize those resources to achieve the goals we want to achieve,” said attendee Clifford C. Meeks.
Topics included recognizing and treating signs of child abuse, and how the scars of past injustices can transcend generations.
Many in attendance said the conversation is long overdue. Still, 27-year-old Andrew Campbell was surprised to see it happen at all.
“You really don't hear too often of a black men and boys summit here in Portland, Oregon,” he said. “They say it's one of the whitest cities in America.”
To that point, there were some at the summit who fell outside the target demographic. Erik Zilz works in law enforcement locally and is Caucasian. Still, he didn’t think twice about coming.
“As a community, we're all connected,” he said. “It's something that has to at least be acknowledged and be recognized as something that we all can benefit from a healing.”
Organizers were pleased to have such a varied turnout. Planning for the Black Men & Boys Healing Summit was underway for more than a year.
It’s organized by staff with Multnomah County, the City of Portland’s Office of Youth Violence Prevention and Black Male Achievement, as well as the nonprofit Helping Men Heal. They hope to make it an annual event.
“When you focus on black America, you make all of America better,” said Meeks.