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Health, Inspiring Stories

Fantastic Friday: CONNECT Men’s Roundtable Edition

Ok…so at the advice of the little birdie, last night I went to a men’s roundtable brought together and facilitated by Quentin Walcott of CONNECT, an organization dedicated to addressing violence through early-intervention programs for families.

And I’m so glad that I did…

Let me set the scene because it’s not one that gets play everyday.

A bunch of men, almost all Black and Latino, of ages ranging from 20 to 70+.  Teachers, social workers, community activists, fathers, grandfathers, uncles…all gathered together in a classroom in Harlem to discuss their concern with the violence in their communities, discuss what the root causes were and how to address it and heal from the trauma.

Yes.  Men.  Of Color.  Care.

The usual suspects reared their heads of course.  Systematic issues. Economics. Education.  TV and media.  All of which are certainly true…

But I was struck by the personal responsibility many in the group took.  The lack of urgency around issues of violence that lead to it being “normalized.”  The failure of men to set a good example for children.  The need to engage with youth more consistently and understand them more effectively.  The need to speak truth and the contradictions that adults live, the mixed messages that sends to those that are growing up and the lack of respect that results.  The failure of communities to build their own wealth.  The desire to visibly show that we still care about our communities.  The need for men to provide spaces for themselves and others to be vulnerable.  And, right in my sweetspot, the pursuit of being healthier as individuals in a holistic manner.  Diet. Physical. Spiritual. Mental.

Especially mental.  If there was one idea that jumped out to me (and it could be my own bias), it was how issues related to mental health in our communities can lead to acting out in certain ways.   That includes not resolving conflicts effectively, allowing ego to become the driver of behavior, and the handing down of this mental health trauma to future generations.  Of course, it’s more complicated than just that, and all of the other stuff is important, but it’s not everyday you hear men of color discussing mental health as a root cause for violence.

Personally, it felt really good to be in the presence of other men of color who were interested in pursuing healthier lives and communities.  It’s not something that I find everyday, a safe space to talk about these issues in a constructive manner with others and share ideas.  Some of it is cathartic, some is eye-opening, but it is all necessary in order to take the first step to build the bonds to address the seemingly insurmountable issues, both micro and macro, that are impossible to do without support and collective action.

As one participant made clear, as long as a couple people are still working on making things better, there is hope…

The Men’s Roundtable takes place every last Thursday of the month.  I’m looking forward to working with the group to develop ideas and put them into action.  If you’re in NYC, you’re needed…

Have a Fantastic Friday everyone!

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