Political activist, hip-hop historian, orator, and journalist Kevin Powell impact stretches far beyond being an alumni of the first season of MTV's The Real World. From Friday June 15 to Sunday June 17, in downtown Brooklyn, Powell is heading the Black and Male in America Conference. With a vast array of local leaders and influential personalities scheduled to attend – including actor and author Hill Harper, Ed Lover, and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson – the 3-day conference is an opportunity for black men to help their own. Consider all the events are free of charge, and we have ourselves a mandatory meeting. On the day of the event's kickoff, Powell has a black man-to-man discussion with KING-MAG.com about manning up.

"The fact is that we have a decreasing graduation rate of Black males in high school around the country. I work all around the country and it's a huge problem. For example, I've done a lot of work with the Chicago public schools and it's a big issue there - that's why they started the Black Male initiative. Black boys are not getting out of high school. When you get to the college level – where I make a lot of my living – I have seen the huge drop off in black male college students from even just a decade ago. Those are the challenges that we're bombarded with in popular culture on a regular basis, with a very narrow definition of what black manhood is.

I don't have an issue with hip-hop because I'm a hip-hop head. I grew up in the culture; I'm definitely hip-hop myself in so many ways. Now, I don't think there's many people who know the culture as well as I do as a participant, chronicler, curator, etc. but we'd be lying to ourselves if we didn't say a lot of the images that we're getting in the magazines, videos, or on the radio isn't affecting how black men define themselves at this point. I'm talking about everything from "gangsterism” and "thuggism” to the ridiculous notion of positioning ourselves as pimps by relating to women as prostitutes and video vixens – basically objectifying black women. I'm real clear that there's a larger corporate power structure controlling all of this stuff, but unfortunately the ignorance and self hatred allows us to participate in this stuff. There's a lot of challenges that we're talking about with black males in 2007.

In my opinion, a man is non-violent and peaceful. A man is transparent and honest. A man is accountable and responsible for his actions. A man understands that women are his equal on every single level. There is no hierarchy of gender – and a real man doesn't participate in that foolishness. I am saying this as a man who has once participated in all the things I just listed: the violence, the bashing of the brothers who might be different than me, all of that kind of stuff – that's not manhood. That's archaic and "caveman”-like.

A man should be able to transform his life from time to time. One great example of that is Malcolm X. You know where he was at one point- seven years in jail and 8th grade education. But he took it open himself with the help of his family to transform his life. A man is not afraid to make changes in his life- that's a man. What we're seeing a lot of times out there are males, and that's different from being a man. Many of us were born with male organs and are male, but at the end of the day we don't know what it is to be a man. A man understands that there's a responsibility to try and help mentor younger males behind you whenever you can. This is not about Black Male empowerment; this is about Black Community empowerment.”