The founder and creative director of MENtions-Stories About Us—a social media blog created to highlight the “good works” of Afro-Trinidadian and Caribbean men, says it was time to stop painting the black man with one brush.
Speaking to Guardian Media the 36-year-old communications and public relations specialist Dike Noel said: “There seems to be a growing negative perception in the society about the Afro-Trinbagonian male. One sees certain images in the media and the perception may be left that this is how the majority of us are and I don’t think it is so at all.”
He continued: “In the past few months and dare I even say years, on the local and international landscape, we have seen how other races view black men. In many regards, we are vilified and I don’t believe that anyone can honestly dispute that.”
It is for this reason Noel started MENtions which he explained intends to change that perception and provide a platform where men can see a reflection of themselves and the multiple possibilities of who they can be. It is also meant to show, Noel related, that all young Afro-males don’t reside in the prisons, hang on the block, are secondary school dropouts or wear sagging pants etc.
“Afro-Trinbagonian men are successful also. We are entrepreneurs, attorneys, artists, web-developers, ICT geniuses, university professors, academics, media practitioners, bankers, marketing gurus, paediatricians or even in my case, communications professionals,” Noel contended.
He pointed to examples of successful and productive African-Trinidadian men from the older generation such as Gervase Warner, Derek Hudson, Professor George Maxwell Richards (deceased) and Professor Brian Copeland, whom he believes aren’t sufficiently highlighted.
Regarding the younger generation of successful African-Trinidadian males in the age category 45 and under, Noel feels they are even at a greater disadvantage when it comes to being portrayed in “good light,” as he reiterated this might be because of the myopic view of the world of today’s young Afro-male.
Socialisation of the
Afro-male is crucial
Believing the view of others about one’s self can easily become one’s view of one’s self, hence Noel said how the Afro-male is socialised was critical.
He noted there were already so many homes where fathers were absent or if there were males they may not be the positive male figures or male role models needed to help shape, guide and mould.
Noel related: “There are some men who have children and are unable to be fathers to their offspring because they too, didn’t have positive male forces in their own lives so they cannot teach what they don’t know.”
He said such, which forms one’s upbringing and many other factors, can contribute to how the Afro-male generally views himself.
“There are those who view themselves positively—they view themselves as kings.
“They understand their role, their purpose and they don’t allow their circumstances or history to negatively define them. On the flip side, some eat what they are fed and they buy into the rhetoric and false perception of themselves. As a result, they view themselves negatively,” Noel, explained.
He said the latter may be as a result of low self-esteem stemmed from one’s upbringing or they manifest what was consistently spoken into their lives—“you cannot achieve this or that.”
Noel argued society also needed to move away from the impaired notion that being a man means being tough, rough and unemotional.
He said by instilling this unbalanced sense of what it means to be a man, the future generation grows up with the distorted notion that “I can’t do this because it is isn’t “manly.”
“We need to change that. I recently chatted with someone who said in his view, a successful black man should take time to teach his children the things he was not privy to when he was younger.
“A successful black man is one who after a hard day’s work, still takes the time to attend a PTA meeting and helps to mentor his children. A successful black man is one who cares about his family and his fellow man,” Noel shared.
He said he wholeheartedly agreed with that interpretation because there were so many positive and productive men working hard to provide for their families and support their communities.
He said there was a dire need for such men to help the younger generation to be more emotionally intelligent and knowledgeable of themselves.
Since launching MENTions in April, Noel has interviewed over 40 successful Afro-males from T&T and the Caribbean, among them were Guardian Media’s deputy head of business, Joel Julien and Morvant native, Denzil Streete, Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Development and Diversity at Yale University, United States.
Noel intendås to remove the sheet covering the light of the successful Afro-male and to fill the gap that exists and tell the stories of these men while inspiring and encouraging others.
He said he was thankful the Government had in place some programmes, which provided a forum for men to discuss issues, which were affecting them, and this was a good start.
However, he hoped the conversations could affect meaningful change-making evident, a greater number of well-rounded, balanced, properly socialised Afro-males and by extension, all men.