Personal Responsibility & What’s Needed

Now, let’s not get it twisted. Men are largely responsible for that retreat, both on an individual and institutional level. For example, the growth of the school to prison pipeline has increasingly restricted the economic options of a significant number of minority and low-income men. Even talking about “creating mentorship and support networks for men” seems oxymoronic, considering that male privilege exemplified by your classic “old boys network” is still an active force holding back equity and equal opportunity in many institutions of power.

Yet whether you are 14 or 40, at some point you need the perspective of another man or other men. Different parts of your life require different sounding boards. For many, our view of manhood is a solitary definition with profiles in courage rarely including a call for the kind of emotional help that every person craves and needs. Even for those who are quite comfortable serving that role, there still are not enough resources readily available to model that way forward.

Building a network that intertwines emotional and professional support is something that successful people do naturally throughout their lives. It’s something that in my experience, through both community programs and leadership organizations like Prep for Prep or the National Urban Fellows program, women are more comfortable in developing to support them academically. Throughout high school and college, I probably went to a lot more study sessions organized by Latina women than I did men. Thinking back, there was never a doubt about being your brother’s keeper on the streets and on the athletic field, but rarely was the classroom ever mentioned.

Increasingly, classrooms and academic settings are where many leaders, especially of color, are forging the friendships that will later blossom into opportunities for both personal and community success. It’s where the basic building blocks of communication, collaboration and leadership are learned and practiced. From a practical standpoint, it’s also where the stereotypes of children and young adults are either forged or challenged and where the seeds of tolerance and prejudice are both planted and sowed. The more diverse these settings are — by gender, race, ethnicity or income — the greater chance that all of our youth will grow into adults with the perspective that they will need to navigate the multilayered challenges that await them in their future.

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About The Author

Elbert Garcia is a Dominican-American writer and communications strategist based in Miami. He is dedicated to organizing stories for change. Born and raised in Washington Heights, Garcia has spent the the last two decades in education, government and the media helping to shape messages and voices for public impact.

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