World-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., will be the keynote speaker at the University of the Virgin Islands' third-annual "Man-Up" Male Empowerment Conference. The conference is scheduled for Feb. 4, at UVI's Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas, and Feb. 5, on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. This year's theme is: "Man-Up: Discovering Your Gifts and Talents."
In his youth, Dr. Carson struggled with poverty, low grades, a horrible temper and a low self-esteem, but it was his mother, who only had a third grade education, who encouraged him to strive for excellence. Today, Dr. Carson is a celebrated surgeon and a pioneer in his field. His autobiography "Gifted Hands" became a TNT original movie starring Academy Award Winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Kimberly Elise. Dr. Carson is a full professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he has directed pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center for more than 25 years.
"He is the embodiment of the 'Man-Up' Conference's theme, 'Man-Up: Discovering Your Gifts and Talents'," said Dr. Haldane Davies, special assistant to UVI President Dr. David Hall. "He had the opportunity to turn his life around and now is a gifted surgeon able to help and heal people. This conference will give young men in this community the opportunity to hear from and speak with a world-renowned surgeon, who serves as a positive role model."
In 1987, Dr. Carson received global acclaim when he became the first surgeon to successfully separate craniopagus twins - twins connected at the back of their heads. In 1997, he separated two vertically joined craniopagus twins in South Africa and was the first to successfully place an intrauterine shunt for a hydrocephalic twin. Hydrocephalus is a brain condition that occurs when cerebral spinal fluid is unable to drain from the brain and forms pools, causing a backup of fluid in the skull.
Dr. Carson holds more than 60 honorary doctoral degrees and has received hundreds of awards and citations. He sits on the board of directors of numerous organizations.
In 2001, Dr. Carson was named by CNN and TIME magazine as one of the nation's 20 foremost physicians and scientists. That same year, he was selected by the Library of Congress as one of 89 "Living Legends." Dr. Carson is also the recipient of the 2006 Spingarn Medal which is the highest honor bestowed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In June 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush, which is the highest civilian honor in the U.S.
Also selected to speak at the conference are professor, author and director M.K. Asante, Jr. and Mothers Against Guns (MAG) Executive Director Celia Carroll.
The author of four celebrated books, Asante, is a recipient of the Langston Hughes Award. His latest book, "It's Bigger Than Hip Hop," was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "An empowering book that moves you to action and to question status quo America." Asante also directed, "The Black Candle," a Starz original movie that he co-wrote with poet and author Maya Angelou, who narrates the prize-winning film. He has been featured on the CBS Early Show, NBC News, BBC America and National Public Radio.
Months after her son Jason Carroll was gunned down in a daylight shooting on Main Street in 2000, Celia Carroll started the St. Thomas chapter of Mothers Against Guns and has since been actively engaged in activities that promote the value of life and speak against gun violence in the Virgin Islands.
This year's conference will also feature performances by Virgin Islands and internationally known recording artist, Iyaz, Wally Kyat and Pressure. Iyaz, born Keidran Jones, recorded his first studio single, "My Life" in 2010. Iyaz was born on Tortola, BVI and studied digital recording in college. His talent was spotted by recording artist Sean Kingston in 2008. Iyaz's song "Replay" peaked at number two on Billboard Hot 200 and in the United Kingdom it ruled the country's singles chart.
Wally Kyat, born Omari George, became one of the most requested artists on V.I. radio with his first recording "From the V.I." in 2010. The thought-provoking anti-violence song chronicled one of the most murderous times in the V.I. and the personal pain Wally Kyat experienced at losing friends to gun violence. Since then he has recorded several other singles and performed in the territory, Florida and Georgia. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electronics Engineering and works at the V.I. Water and Power Authority as an engineering technician.
St. Thomas native Pressure, born Delyno Brown, began singing professionally with the Star Lion Family in 2002, but it was his debut solo album "The Pressure Is On" in 2005 that made him an internationally recognized name. In 2007, Pressure released "Love And Affection." His newest album, "Africa Redemption" will be released in February 2013.
For the first time, the "Man-Up" Conference will feature the finals of a live poetry contest. Other entertainment includes the UVI Dance Squads, and the Ivanna Eudora Kean, Charlotte Amalie, Central, and Educational Complex High Schools marching bands.
The "Man-Up" Conference was started in 2011 in response to rising cases of violence in the community and the low enrollment rate of young men in higher education. It is an initiative of "Brothers with a Cause," a UVI program that seeks to attract more male students to the University and provide tools and support to help them graduate.
"The 'Man-Up' conference is an opportunity to reach young men in the territory," Dr. Davies said, noting that it provides young men with options to advance in life and be productive citizens in the community.
Pre-registration and more information are available from the Male Initiative home page at /import/sites/uvi/Pages/President-male_initiative.aspx?s=CS or by calling the Office of the President. The conference is sponsored by the University of the Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Department of Education and the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services.
For more information about the "Man-Up" Male Empowerment Conference, contact Dr. Haldane Davies at (340) 693-1000.