Monday, August 18, 2008

Men's Project draft

This evening at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, 16 men told stories of how they became more where their notions of what it meant to be a man derived. For most of them this defining moment was just one among many self-reflective moments as somewhere along the path between child and adult they realized, that the boxes were becoming an uncomfortable fit, whether that was as a black disabled man not getting any play from the sisters--disability and sexuality interfering with his ability to develop relationships with black women, to a man raised by a woman deciding that he could still be a man despite all the negative role models he encountered as a child, from the sperm donor to his mother's boyfriends.

What made the evening remarkable was the honesty and each man's willingness to face his demons. One man during the second half, pulled up a chair and led us in a group session where he helped us notice the energy in the room....He said the room was filled with a lot of love, had to be for the person who proceeded him to feel comfortable enough to tell us that he had HIV disease.

Many of the stories were of men addressing their violence, relationships with fathers--most bad a few better, an maybe two good. It was a healing exercise or journey we traveled with each participant. Most of them, if not all are still on the journey--our paths crossing in the moment we shared this evening with them.

I grew very full as I listened. I cried with the men on stage for coming into a world where tough is often used as an antidote for pain, grief, or fear.

I was hopeful. Some of the men had obvious theatre backgrounds and performed skits, some in duet, others solo. The poetry was phenomenal. Funny the piece opened and closed with poems.

Afterwards the lights came up and we had an opportunity to ask questions. One of the comments was the absence of women in the stories. The comparison was to Eve Ensler's Vaginal Monologues which bring men into the discourse too. I don't think men had to bring women into their stories, but I do find it interesting that a woman can't seem to tell her story without including a man, that man often more central to her story than she is.

Why do we give up our power like that, even when unasked women seem to serve it up on a platter.

Rashad's dance, three characters was a nice way of looking at three men, the way Nina Simone sings about four(?) women.


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