Committed as I was to being a space for full self expression, unreasonable truth telling and sharing, there was no way for me to be prepared for what transpired last night. After spending two and a half hours with twelve men from all walks of life, varying ages, with various life experiences, I am floored, humbled and openly expectant for things to come. The men were open, willing and responsive to questions posed to delve deeper than the surface of experiences. We discussed various topics ranging from racial profiling (both by law enforcement and in the workplace) to absent fathers to the imbalance in the education system. The topic garnering the most attention, response and expression was around the topic of fathers and their absence, presence or ambiguous nature in their lives.
There were moments when it was necessary to draw the focus back to personal experience. There is a natural tendency to take on the role of problem solver or observer even in our own experience and I took it upon myself to hold the line with the purpose of the event... which was to delve into PERSONAL experience, PERSONAL places where life experience has cracked, marred or scarred you. It was an empowering conversation, an empowering Round Table of men that I will forever see as courageous, powerful, valuable human beings.
After months and months of pondering how and what this project will be, the I Am Only Human Project is in full swing! I am extremely excited, nervous, and humbled under the weight of this project's scope and mission.
"Upon viewing '12 Years a Slave', the movie, I became “caught”, “stuck” by the scene in which the main character, Solomon, is forced to brutally whip his friend and confidante, Patsy. Having begun a visual journey through the interpersonal labyrinths between men and women in the months prior, this scene halted me and made me pause. 'What did it do to the black man’s psyche to be forced to whip the skin off the back of his counter-part?', I thought, 'What part or parts of himself did he have to discard forever in order to survive that experience?'... This inquiry led to other questions that The “I Am Only Human” Project works to discover responses to. 'What else is he carrying around?'"
Through an amazing partnership with The new Black Writers Museum, we will be hosting two Forum style dinners for black males of all ages to ponder and sit with these questions as a way to inform imagery for a traveling mural/Forum project entitled "Men @ the Round Table". On Friday evening, June 20th from 6pm to 8:30pm and Saturday, July 12th from 1:00pm to 3:30pm, a space of safety, inquiry and expansion will be created to delve into this often misunderstood and ignored aspect of our society.