A group of ten, men, take up seats in a circle around a homey living room which captures the sunlight of a Sunday afternoon. Half of those in attendance are regulars of the monthly gathering, back for another opportunity to present some things they’ve struggled with since the last meeting. They are hopeful for the clearing which brought the other half, newcomers, to attendance seeking. Only, their focus is no longer mired in the skeptical optimism one comes away with off a flier. And soon, neither will be the attention committed by the newbies.
It is incredibly difficult to support another individual when they do not have your listening. That’s common knowledge, common sense right?; s0 common that more often than not we mine-as-well be nodding along as they speak (some of us actually do, when we’re not swaying our heads in disapproval). Are you listening?
Truth is: not your best friend, not your lover, nor your mother, has your listening because your listening is not available to them but by you. You may be giving them the listening you assume they need… You may be giving them the listening you assume they want… You may be giving them the listening you feel YOU need to have! But nobody can truly depend on you giving them the listening they require to have you in full support, until you have effectively declared that they can have it, free of you. Because you, have your listening.
One of the first timers has been a part of various mens’ groups in the past and sits steadfast to hear how this one will compare; he’s already found a couple of things wrong. Another start up is eager to flesh out his master plan for what brothers need to do to protect and advance the Black family, and we’ve come to the best part; he gets to tell why he has come. His friend sits idly by, observing what he perceives the oddities of some group his boy invited him to: a candle and a bowl of water, the smell of sage, and a couple of fellas he is almost certain are gay, to the left of him. A fourth novice to the group has been anxious as to how the others will take it if he were to reveal the lengths to which his arguments get with his wife back home; so anxious, he has been unable to retain most of what he’s heard up till this point. They are all in their own heads. Even the returnees; a couple of whom have been silently word is bonding they already know what’s up, a couple having gotten so comfortable with only the core regulars they are not sure they’ll show up as they have in past meetings.. might just kick back and do more observing this time.
The session has JUST begun and we can already notice how we operate in the world. Or I should really say: how each man operates when present to being in a space with others in HIS world. There are expectations, there are agendas, there are bias’, there are insecurities. And in order for us to make ourselves available to be of support for one another, each man must be brought to recognize where he is in the conversation, and to give precedence to the narrative of the man speaking ABOVE that of the man thinking behind his own eyes. The Brother Man Transformational Circle starts with you holding yourself responsible for how you show up for yourself and for who you are being, in the conversation.
Human beings have on average, 60,000 thoughts in a day. 86,400 seconds in a 24 hour day and 60,000 thoughts spread about your every sleeping and waking hour. Most of/ damn near all of those thoughts are the same ones you had the day before and are the same ones you will have tomorrow; testament to the fact that your mind is not trying to reinvent the wheel. You have grown conditioning yourself to adapt to circumstance, making adjustments along the way. And while certainly it’s never out of the question that something which threatens to drastically change things might linger near (a lay-off, a break-up, illness), by adulthood we’ve pretty much established ways of being which dictate our thoughts to reinforce themselves. These ways of being, and the thoughts which produce and envelop them are in part the perpetual behavioral response you once depended upon to survive in a threatening environment, and they continue to assume some of the premise for how you process and project in the world today. ((Ex: most of your 60,000 thoughts never stopped coming from a guarded place after you were molested, or from a self serving place if you were abandoned, or from a place of self-doubt if you were rejected)).
When brothers GET that our process, while habitual, is not necessarily an archetypal determinant of who we are, we encounter the notion of being as a fluid, more manageable reality. First it is important for us to explore the function of our being as the creation of our past; this is an opportunity to really flesh out some things we’ve dealt with, to allow ourselves to expose how we’ve been stopped/sabotaged/dis-empowered or perhaps even, motivated/empowered by our process till that point. It is also an opportunity for us to reflect on how we may have been showing up in relationship to people in our lives (parents, friends, partners, children, workmates) as a function of the baggage we’ve held onto. And from that we can imagine how any of that might stand to be different if we chose to recommit (and groom) our way of being, our character: to be nurturing, generating, open, focused, disciplined, as opposed to cynical, resigned, isolating, dominating, etc. We imagine the possibilities beset by a clearing to enable us to allow ourselves to receive love into our world, and to stand in love in the world of others. A typically snide “well, this is just who I am.” becomes a humble “wow, this is who i’m being.” We as brothers need to allow the space to forgive ourselves and the freedom to design a new, wise, holistic self in the image of a world which will receive us as Brothers.
While the hour spent sharing, listening, reflecting, about our struggles with family/our struggle with finances/our struggle at work/our struggle with meeting artistic and life goals/ is all tantamount to a bountiful mens group experience. And while exchange of each’s intricately personal experiences lends itself to breakthroughs not only for the brother sharing but for others (AH HAH! moments snap, crackle, and pop when we open up from out of a clearing). So too is it important to discuss/address the social context in which we as men are both privileged and cursed to operate inside of as a dominant group/oppressor. For, the dysfunctions which come up for us (isolation, violence, self-neglect, excess, jealousy, ect.) are all detriments to assuming a position of entitlement when that position *invites* access to unhealthy lifestyles, OR when that entitlement is confronted (and we don’t get our way).
Greater than the impact sustaining patriarchy in our everyday culture, in societal structures and in our institutions, has ON US, is the impact it has on our Sisters/ our Mothers/ our Daughters, and on our Brothers who identify as Queer. And our ability to transform to a state of being which can freely operate in the world of each and every one of our Brothers and Sisters, to the spiritual, material, social capacity rewarded those of us embodied in our powerful humanity; our ability to transform to a state of being which eagerly invites all human beings including those as close as our parents, lovers, and children to flourish inside of our world… is dependent on us first acknowledging that impact, then beginning to take responsibility for how we perpetuate it.
In the past month metropolitan newspapers have reported at least two cover stories on guys stabbing their lovers to death, in addition to the continued coverage of a serial killer leaving the bodies of dead sex workers on a beach in Long Island. There have also been several hate crime beatings, including a murder in Queens, as a result of homophobic attacks. We continue to cede to inaction, as our children continue to ever fan gay bashing flames to dangerously oppressive levels, with the suicide rates sky rocketing as a result. The language/ the levels of harassment our girls have to sit in school through are shameful! It is all OUR fault! WE, men, have laid ground for such an atmosphere, and we are responsible for ridding it.
When we come together as allies of Sisters and of Queer identified Sisters and Brothers, pent on deconstructing patriarchy starting from where we are at we open up a whole world of potential for how we show up in the world of our sons and daughters. We empower our boys and girls to the lengths of their artistic ability, their ability to be fully expressed, their ability to enterprise, their ability to stand in their world as liberated beings. We shed the tendency to suppress dreams, to invalidate their talents, to pressure a stunting of their senses as secure people… We transform ourselves and thereby join in with other brothers, and with sisters who’ve been generating a vision to transform the future.
There are many of us who assume that we are already allies to women and Queer peoples. The Brother Man group will challenge you to consider on whose grounds, by what actions/ by what in-actions, within what measures of accountability… You may very well be a great ally to groups disenfranchised under patriarchy; we as men could always continue to be BETTER! Do you commit to living in the stand of an ally in the same dominating or passive aggressive or reactionary, or mistrusting, or invalidating manner ticked off in your own conversation?; or do you submit your attention and time to honor and compliment their struggle? Regardless of your response, it’s nothing we can’t improve on by being more responsible for who we are being when we show up in their worlds.
**SOME BROTHERS MAY EXPRESS BEING UNCOMFORTABLE WITH COMMITMENTS TO TRANSFORM THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH WOMEN OR QUEER FOLK BEYOND WHERE THEY ARE AT. These brothers are not outcast from the group, as it must be recognized that these brothers reflect the great majority of men in society and the overarching intention of Brother Man Transformational Circles is to get these brothers into the conversation. THEY WILL NEED TO EXPECT AND TO DEAL HOWEVER, WITH THE FACT THAT THEY WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR ANY NOTIONS OF OPPRESSION THEY PUT OUT. THEY WILL, FOR AS LONG AS THEY ARE IN THE GROUP, NEED TO BE PREPARED TO HANG IN AND EITHER REMAIN BLIND TO HOW THEY ARE ENABLING EVEN THEIR OWN OPPRESSORS (patriarchy ultimately enabling white supremacy as a function of these systems being interwoven, for example), OR UNTIL THEY RECOGNIZE THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO CHALLENGE THE SOCIAL CONTRACT.***
All of that being said, Brother Man Transformational Circles is really about YOU, the brother whom has come to take part. Certainly your liberation and personal healing is expediated as you empower yourself to show up as a clearing for the liberation and personal healing of those around you; transform your environment and your environment transforms you. But do not think that Brother Man Transformational Circles is a place to exchange theory and jargon. It all emanates from your personal struggles. Everything else falls into context around those struggles. First and foremost is the focus for each one of us brothers to be able to access our inner freedom, and happiness.
There is no leader in the group! No brother has a right to proclaim specialty over another brother, although should other brothers wish to acknowledge specialty in a specific brother and lean on his guidance that’s what’s up. Each one of us, including those of us whom have been doing anti-oppression work for years, steps into that circle recognizing he is no less an oppressor than the next man and isn’t above considering advice or being held accountable by another!
The facilitator of the Brother Man Transformational Circle presents hard analysis via charting, via discussion, via video, via activity/game, via problem posing and methods of prodding which fully involve the group to recognize the system in themselves, and themselves in the system. The Brother Man participant must not only be made to recognize where in self and where in the social/economic/political strata upholding patriarchy in-lies the oppressor, and the oppression; he must be able to see and imagine full capacity to access the tools to dis-enable the oppressor, and to overcome the oppression.
Therefore, BMTC meetings must progress relative to the variables specific to each different group. There are different methods and different paces to introduce/analyze information and to cultivate praxis. All in all the progress of the group must be natural to the group and it cannot be expected that one brother is going to choose to pursue transformation in the same areas, or at the same intensity as the next. It IS however, imperative that everything be done to try and retain brothers attending meetings regardless of where they are at, because BMTC’s are for The People! *Only if, a brother appears to have committed to acting out in a consistent manner presumed that of a saboteur will he be dis-invited back. There are other mens groups out there and if a BMTC is not for you, we wish you the best. !Safe Space!
Providing there is time we will follow up social/systemic analysis with another round of sharing; this time granting each Brother Man participant to share out of a clearing which has guided him to utilize the focus of the analysis, to draw parallels between what has opened up about the function of his being till that point, and the oppression he has imposed on others as a man who has inherited and has been rewarded by helping institute patriarchy around him.
– It may occur to him that he and his wife have been living an arrangement organized around him having certain privileges to come home to/ which he rarely, if ever reciprocates. And he gets the impact this has had on the emotions between them.
– It may occur to him that he only has Queer friends at school, yet they do not meet up at the same places he meets up with his regular clique, (and never meshes his circles). And he may see the larger impact of how if every straight identified person did the same thing they would effectively be subordinating a whole sector of society. *which we do*
– It may occur to him that in delegating his son the daughters protector and his daughter to some degree her brothers care taker, that they both may be under overwhelming pressure to maintain his preferred roles for them OR that they may be becoming so comfortable in those roles he is beginning to see how their individuality has been sacrificed as the boy returns from a day at school being the toughest little man and daddy’s daughter returns with the constant fear she might have let some boy down.
– It might occur to him that he’s stopped being aggressive about his future, or that he is approaching every woman as a potential lover and thus hasn’t been able to find a lover, or that his chase for money has left him jaded and missing having a social life, it may be that he isn’t eating right or isn’t exercising, It can be that he acts as an overseer at work or is apprehensive to ask for what he wants at work, or that he has no work and that’s been really getting him down, or that he just noticed every time he drinks it is with the same old people and that a whole host of unhealthy habits tie into them joining at this one spot at this one time and that nobody really watches out for one another, etc.
After two hours of vulnerability and focused energy the meeting comes to a close with hugs, commitments, and brief discussion as to what Brother Man might want to see out of future meetings. Bonds are slowly built on the new discourse shaping between us, and each one of us is gaining on our courage to represent ourselves as the transformed revolutionary men we endeavor to be; to be a model for young Black Men and men of all oppressed and oppressor variations to follow. The next BMTC experience will promise to be just as broad and intense, with brothers who came in with tightened postures and stingy shares planning to get up together before the next month. Their smiles, their eyes, their hearts wide for another start.