Black men are fathers, entrepreneurs, mentors, husbands, employees, and even environmentalist. We are nothing to be afraid of, but you might not know that by watching the 6 o’clock news. For those whose exposure to black men are limited to the images, stereotypes, and negative narratives often portrayed in media, it’s no wonder that the reflexive reaction is often that of fear.

On Saturday, February 17, influential men from across the city came together at the Men of Courage pop-up at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center on Detroit’s east side. Their goal was simple, to attack the negative stereotypes often associated with black men. As a first time participant, I can vouch from  experience that the event met and surpassed that goal!

The pop-up provided men with the opportunity to share their stories, create a vision for success, and take collective action to achieve that vision.

The environment was carefully curated for honest, open, and encouraging interactions. For example, if I asked you to think of a safe place where brothas can go and feel 100 percent relaxed, let down their guard, and leave feeling more confident and clean than when they first arrived – What would be the first destination that comes to mind?

Yep, the BARBERSHOP!

Photo: giphy

1. The Barbershop. For black men, the barbershop is a place of therapy, self-care, and reflection. You may hear any conversation, on any topic inside the barbershop. At the Men of Courage pop-up, an entire corner of the room was converted into a working barbershop where young men were able to relax, get a nice fade, and talk about their challenges with mentors. However, the conversations on this day were centered on growth and development.

 

2. The Stories. Young men yearning for answers, asked questions about how to realize their potential and take their lives to the next level. The mentors openly shared that, just like them, they didn’t always have all the answers either.

Principal Sean Fisher of Fisher Magnet Upper Academy shared a compelling story about the challenges circumstances of his upbringing. Shawn H. Wilson talked about the hardships he faced as a youth living in public housing and struggling with the effects of crime, drugs, and gangs.

“Everyone in my neighborhood had a choice – sell drugs or get a job,”

He made the choice to get a job and from that experience he made the choice to go to college. Once he differentiated himself, the rest was history. “The choices you make now can affect you for the rest of your life,” he said. 

3. The Connections. Leaders from business, politics, non-profits, and more filled the room to pour into the young men in attendance. I was particularly inspired by the willingness of each of the men to connect, not only with each other but with mentees. These mentors were living, breathing examples for their young counterparts, of what success could look like. Lasting connections were made during the Men of Courage event.

4. The Goal Setting. Led by the question, “How might we spark or accelerate economic mobility for black men in Detroit?” The men also discussed creating opportunities for young black men through education and mentorship programs.

5. The Vision. One of the best parts of the day long Men of Courage pop-up were the visioning sessions. During the Men of Courage visioning sessions, they used the Men of Courage toolkit to create a work flow for addressing community development. Just like that the room transitioned into a think tank!

Coming together to create visions for a better future ?? #MenOfCourage #MOC205

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In less than 15 minutes, vision boarding, and the exchange of ideas flowed between the teams that were developed. But this was nothing new to these men, they are already working in the communities they want to serve. The solutions they presented were things they have already implemented in their communities.

The Bottom Line Is This: Men of Courage understands black men. It was envisioned, created, and executed by black men. It is for this reason that I believe that Men of Courage should be a rite of passage for black men.

 

A rite of passage is a ceremony of the passage which occurs when an individual goes from being a child to an adult. A transition that isn’t always indicative of age, but of mental maturation. This organization supports the creativity and engagement of men, young and old, to be active resources in their communities. This is why Men of Courage is not only important, but necessary.

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Join the movement! Download the Men Of Courage Toolkit to host a forum in your city!

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