In this blog, I elevate black men’s voices for principle no. 7 (of 10): Understand Black Women’s Daily Lives of Reality, Roles, Relationships, and Risk-taking for advancing black feminism in public health.
When it comes to black women’s daily lives, among the many factors that set black feminism apart from mainstream white feminism is our support and advocacy for black men as our birth, step, surrogate, and community fathers, as well as the fathers of our children. Additionally, black women are connected to their black sons, brothers, uncles, clergy, teachers, mentors, civic, and community leaders. In fact, black women’s intimacy with, and affinity to, black men complicates public health interventions, primarily due to the ebb and flow of pain and pleasure in love, family, and social relationships.
As Fannie Lou Hamer asserts, when it comes to addressing issues related to black men, in general, black women are interested in working side by side with black men towards civic, social, economic, and health equity. In like manner, I support including black men as valued voices in mounting winning and sustainable solutions for public health threats, such as unwanted pregnancies, maternal and child health, violence against women, and sexually transmitted diseases.
In honor of the life and legacy of black feminist thinker, bell hooks, who transitioned on December 15, 2021, I chose her voice for the consciousness-raising perspective as to why black men must be fully present in the fight for race and gender equity. In her book, We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity (2004), bell hooks framed her standpoint for centering black men in addressing socio-economic and social injustices as follows:
Black men’s voices are essential in advancing black feminism in public health. In my own efforts to center men’s voices, I launched a series I call, “constructive conversations” about social and health threats facing black women and girls. These constructive conversations with 6 black men from my inner-circle resulted in healthy dialogue about gender equity, love relationships, educating and mentoring young black boys, and black men’s mental health. Collectively, these men contributed valuable viewpoints from a place of thought leadership via their professions, but also shared vulnerabilities via their lived experiences.
Watch and listen into conversations with the following leaders below:
Rev. Orlando Evans discusses Black men’s total health and wellness, the significance of addressing gender equity in families, and provides insight for enhanced black male engagement in mental health and public health.
Joe discusses the value of exposing young black disadvantaged boys to legitimate career options, and he critiques the educational system for its continued resistance to evolving into a more relevant learning environment, where young boys have opportunities to build knowledge and skills in preparation for achieving the American dream through diverse and legitimate means.
Dr. Yancy discusses mentoring black boys through his lived experiences as a student under the leadership of Morehouse’s 6th President, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays. He then connects that exposure to the ways in which he committed to mentoring disadvantaged boys.
Rev. Tate discusses the significance of creating a safe space for black boys and men to be heard. He gives a glimpse into being mentored by former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson. Rev. Tate also traces today’s absentee father pathology to the historic trauma of slavery and social programs that penalized black men’s presence in the lives of black women and children.
Symeon discusses what it meant to be my first intern and first full time employee. As a mental health specialist, he gives insights on black men’s unmet mental health needs, including more practical strategies for reaching and engaging black men in difficult conversations around emotions and mental instability.
Jevon discusses the complexity of including young black men in reproductive health, and provides insights on conceptualizing a male-centered health intervention called “the locker room” as a safe space for young boys.
My constructive conversations with black men included multifaceted discussions about the concept of “RESPECT”. Among the common themes, a clear narrative of historical disrespect emerged, as each shared their beliefs about what authentic respect in America would look and feel like, by finishing the sentence: “Black boys and men will feel valued and respected in America when…”
In closing, let’s work side by side in our quest for equity, through gaining the respect we deserve as individuals, as families, and as a community of people who care deeply for one another. I am doing my part by building close, caring relationships with the young black men in my family.