“You have to find your own luck,” said Scott Syphax, president and chief executive officer of the Nehemiah Companies of Sacramento, Calif., and keynote speaker for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and Build Bridges to Success event held on Jan. 24, at Cosumnes River College.
The event began with a short video, produced by CRC television production major Christopher Cannon. Its footage depicted some of the violent treatment that African Americans were forced to endure as well as the struggles of segregation and inequality.
Dr. King organized protests and participated in “non-violent” practices in the ’50s and ’60s, in hopes of ending racism and overcoming racial inequality.
Although the volume on racism may be turned down a bit, statistics and research of African American unemployment rates, housing challenges and poverty levels speak volumes to this day.
Syphax said that the unemployment rate has reportedly fallen to 6.7%. He went on to say that 15 percent of Hispanics are unemployed and 19 percent of African Americans still remain jobless.
In Detroit, 92 percent of African American teens are unable to gain employment, thus turning to alternative measures to survive financially, Syphax said.
But the event was not so much a focus on the treatment of African Americans in society today, rather tips on how to be successful, how to educate and how to self evaluate. Syphax said this boiled down to a few words, “never give up.”
Syphax said that he was thrown out of college not once, or twice but three times.
“Find your passion and do what you love, not what others love or would love for you to do,” Syphax said.
He said he rose above his challenges and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business with an emphasis on Real Estate Development.
Today, Syphax said he is essentially paid by companies to sit in as a board member due to his expertise and knowledge. His message to the 100 plus students in attendance was to stop making excuses and start making choices. Choices for their future.
The event was attended by CRC President Debbie Travis, Los Rios Chancellor Brian King, Academic Senate President Bj Snowden, Dean of Student Services and Counseling Dr. Michael Marion and several other faculty members.
Cannon, one of many students in attendance, stated that youth today often refer to life as being “too hard.”
Although he does not confirm or deny that this is true, Cannon said his message in his short documentary was that the struggle was real and that looking back in comparison to today’s society, we need to be more thankful.
“Thankful for those who endured that traumatic struggle, while moving forward,” Cannon said.
Cannon, a Stockton native, participates in the annual MLK march there, and gives back to the community as a member of a committee in Stockton that promotes black unity called the Black Family Day.
When asked what he took away from the event, Cannon said, “positive affirmation.”
“We must endure the struggles that life throws at us and turn it into an optimistic situation,” Cannon said.
As the event began to wrap up, Syphax offered some more words of advice.
“Reach out to those who are in positions designed to help you be successful,” he said.