The UToledo Conference for Aspiring Minority Youth

Roland Martin

By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter

The University of Toledo held its 40th Annual UToledo Conference for Aspiring Minority Youth Saturday January 27 in Lancelot Thompson Student Union. The event featured media specialist Roland Martin and hip-hop icon Black Thought of the Legendary Roots Crew and The Tonight Show.

Alexis Means, anchor for 13abc, served as mistress of ceremonies for the Saturday morning. The event is believed to be the longest-running free conference of its kind in the country. This year, over 1,400 students, parents and community members registered for the 4-hour conference.

The annual UToledo Conference for Aspiring Minority brings notable speakers from across the nation and the world to speak to Toledo area middle school through high school students, their parents and the community. For 40 years the conference has encouraged students to better understand the importance of education, social justice, and wellness, to their lives.

Established in 1988, Toledo EXCEL helps underrepresented and low-income students, including African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans, achieve success in college. Through summer institutes, academic enhancement activities and guidance through the admission process, students increase their self-esteem, cultural awareness, and civic involvement.

David Young, Director of Toledo Excel

Among EXCEL’s services to high school students are Saturday School, Summer Institutes, tutoring, academic retreat weekends, campus visits, advising for strategic admissions and financial aid, and ethnographic field studies in the U.S. and abroad. (source:

Speakers for the conference included Will Lucas, chairman of the University of Toledo Board of Trustees; Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz; Don Retting, director of Community Affairs and president of the OC Foundation at Owens Corning; Londell Smith, founder of ​Londell Smith & Associates, LLC, and David Young, director of Toledo EXCEL.

Special performances were given by Tahyah’s Dance Studio and a poem recited by UT EXCEL and University of Toledo Alum Davion Desean Williams.

The featured speaker for the evening was Roland Martin, host and managing editor of #RolandMartinUnfiltered, who had been named four times by Ebony Magazine as one of the 150 Most Influential African Americans in the United States.

A longtime journalist, Martin is the host and managing editor of “#RolandMartinUnfiltered,” the first daily online show in history focused on news and analysis of politics, entertainment, sports and culture from an explicitly African American perspective. Martin was a senior analyst for the Tom Joyner Morning Show, where his twice-a-week segment was heard by millions of listeners on upwards of 100 stations. He is the author of three books: Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith, Speak, Brother! A Black Man’s View of America and The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin.

Black Thought and Roland Martin with Alpha Phi Alpha youth group Alpha Esquires

Martin conducted an interview with Black Thought, co-founder of the legendary band The Roots, iconic hip-hop MC, four-time Grammy Award winner and a leader of The Tonight Show house band. As co-founder of The Roots, the beloved house band for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” for more than a decade, and a multi-hyphenate creative, Tariq Trotter — aka Black Thought — has quietly affirmed himself as one of the most prolific and powerful voices in hip-hop, winning four Grammy Awards and three NAACP Image Awards.

In 2022, Black Thought teamed up with Danger Mouse for their acclaimed collaborative album, Cheat Codes. In 2023 he authored a book entitled The Upcycled Self: A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are.

To learn more about Toledo EXCEL and the Aspiring Youth Conference visit