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McKeesport native to help chair Black Male Summit at the University of Akron

| Friday, April 11, 2014, 1:11 a.m.
Patrick Cloonan | Daily News
Darnell Davis Jr.

A McKeesport native with family in the old Tube City is a student co-chairman for the seventh annual Black Male Summit Friday and Saturday at the University of Akron.

“I want to be a leader, in whatever I do, and help the next generation,” said Darnell Davis Jr., 21, a junior majoring in political science and criminal justice.

He helped line up such summit speakers as TV-radio personality Steve Harvey; motivational speaker and educator Terrell Strayhorn; and David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

The University of Akron is trying to build on the success of previous Black Male Summits. It attracted 1,400 registrants last year and Davis predicted a similar number for this year.

Wal-Mart is a summit sponsor and Michael J. Bender, an executive vice president of the retailer, is scheduled to introduce a forum on how community institutions can support black males.

Former CBS news anchor Russ Mitchell, now an anchor at Cleveland's WKYC-3, will moderate a forum featuring former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, now executive vice president for student success at the University of Akron; Akron public school Superintendent David James; Akron Urban League President Fred Wright; and Trabian Shorters, a former Knight Foundation vice president who founded BMe, whose aim is to help inspired black men build better communities.

Others scheduled to speak during the two-day event are filmmaker Janks Morton and MSNBC host Touré.

Davis attended McKeesport Area public schools through seventh grade, then moved with his mother to Penn Hills and attended the Community College of Allegheny County's Boyce Campus Middle College High School.

There he was involved in the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Davis maintained family ties in McKeesport.

In 2008 he worked with his uncle Al Washington on Mon Valley for Obama, a grassroots effort to drum up support for the presidential run of then-Sen. Obama, D-Ill., in the McKeesport area.

“I was the youth coordinator,” Davis said “It introduced me to marketing, to talking to people. It taught me to set some goals (and) how to work toward those goals.”

At Akron he is diversity director for the Residence Hall Council and a candidate for the university's board of trustees.

“Darnell Davis was a wonderful young man,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said of one of the students he had in fifth grade the year he first ran for McKeesport city council, 2003.

“He taught me a lot,” Davis recalled.

“He was very sociable,” the mayor recalled. “He did very well in school. He took his academic work seriously.”

Cherepko said he has run into Davis on a couple occasions in recent years.

“I told him I was extremely proud of him,” he said. “Darnell has shown he has been making good choices in life. He respected adults and he respected himself.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or