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  • Writer's pictureChin

Cypher Conference Gets a Visit from Grammy Award-Winning Artist

Black boys in Grades 7, 8, 9, and 10 were ecstatic to be back in person at the 2023 edition of The Cypher: Black Male Empowerment Conference.

The Cypher Conference, now in its seventh year, attracted more than 400 students from across the DDSB to come together in person at Durham College to celebrate, learn, discuss, have fun, and engage in exploring opportunities for their future.

“We are excited to have ‘The Cypher’ conference back in-person this year. This is a valuable opportunity for our intermediate and secondary Black male students to experience an opportunity to gather, learn, be energized, and see themselves reflected as they strive to be the best version of who they can be,” said Director of Education Camille Williams-Taylor, who provided the opening remarks.


The annual conference provides Black male students with an opportunity to engage with a wide range of entrepreneurs, community leaders, educators, and Black male role models to help explore academic and career pathways and provide a platform to encourage meaningful conversations. Students were immersed in a space of Black male brilliance to propel their desires to achieve their full potential as demonstrated by the keynote discussion from former student and Grammy award-winning record producer Boi-1da.

Boi-1da, also known as Matthew Samuels, is a DDSB alumnus of Pickering High School and Westney Heights Public School who engaged students with stories of working with Drake, Rihanna, Jay-Z, and more of the biggest names in music. He shared his experiences attending Pickering High School, learning his craft, and the events in his formative years that led to him becoming a successful music producer while doing the work he loves. He answered questions while empowering students to always reach for their dreams.


“I accepted the invite to the conference because I wanted Black kids to think that anything is possible, no matter where you’re from, and especially for youth out here in Durham,” said Boi-1da. “It’s possible to get anywhere you want to get in life if you put in the hard work. I just want to show them it’s possible by telling my story and just being there to show them that you can do it.

Students also took the opportunity during the conference to interact with community organizations and join in some fun activities and workshops led by Black male role models from across the DDSB and the wider community. Conference workshops covered a wide range of subjects, from physical fitness to money management. Students also participated in touring the college campus through organized outings while exploring a range of programs and opportunities that would be available to them following high school.


The focus of this year’s conference was to engage and empower Black male students and provide them with access to a wide range of leadership and engagement opportunities. Conference organizers believe it is imperative to remain mindful of the importance of the need for more Black male role models and emphasize the goals of promoting positive transitions through various academic pathways while also eliminating barriers to success.


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