I’ve been back stateside, but my travels and the education I glean from them continue. Shortly after returning from South Africa, I ended my 2022 with a 6-day speaker’s tour in northern Wisconsin. In a mix of different spaces, some incredibly diverse while others hosted an audience that made me hyper-aware, I imparted crucial wisdom about unpacking trauma, healing, navigating workplace conflict, and more. As always, I gave what I could to everyone in the room and walked away with lessons for personal growth.
The tour launched on Friday, December 2nd, with a youth leadership retreat hosted by End Abuse WI in Ripon, WI. In this three-hour workshop, I engaged with a hyper-diverse set of young people. The room had a perfect blend of cultures and groups, adding distinct value to the conversation. In our socio-emotionally-focused talk, Black, Latino, Hmong, and white people ages 11 to 30 discussed growth and forward movement as we prepared for the new year.
That Sunday, I spoke with the congregation at Fellowship – Unitarian Universalist. This crowd was less diverse than the youth leadership retreat and mostly comprised older white people. That decrease in diversity didn’t make me nervous, but it did heighten my awareness of the message I was delivering. Before I opened my mouth to speak, I decided my message would hit them exactly how it would hit anybody else.
It paid off because ‘heal the hearts, heal the homes, heal the hoods” resonated with some in attendance. I emphasized that a focus on social justice is good and paramount, but it lacks substance if you’re not doing that same work in your home, and that means nothing if you’re not doing that work in the mirror.
The next few days after that involved several engagements and workshops for Help of Door County. From the handful of opportunities, a few of them stand out to me. First, I facilitated a MENpowerment session with a group of perpetrators of abuse. In this heavy, mentally-challenging conversation, I helped men hold themselves accountable for the pain they’ve caused. We uncovered unhealed personal traumas that enabled their abusive behaviors, and I taught them that unpacking their pains, past and present, is the first step in reversing abusive energy. I hosted a similar workshop the next day with a group of inmates at Door County Jail. We talked less about abuse and the reasons behind it, instead homing in on pain points, trauma, fatherhood, drug usage, and other things that hurt men who aren’t capable of expressing that pain.
The conversations with those inmates shook down barriers and boundaries that might have divided us on the outside. Racial definitions never came into our mix; in that moment, we were just men dealing with the all-too-familiar problems of being human in a world that never wants to see our humanity.
I ended my tour with a MENpowerment workshop in Green Bay in collaboration with We All Rise, the African American resource center. Arguably my favorite stop on the tour, this workshop mirrored that meeting at Door County Jail. More men being vulnerable about their trauma and their triggers and using that vulnerability to connect to one another. I spoke the message God planted in me and walked away from that meeting with a desire to strengthen my offering to men.
That tour was the first in many opportunities to engage with individuals and groups across the globe to incite healing, inspire connection, and support inner and outer development. I am building on the MENpowerment workshop with everything I took from the tour. February 19th, I’m hosting MENpowerment Mental Health: A workshop & conversation for men of color. If interested, email me to secure your spot and learn how to manage trauma, enhance your communication skills, and unpack pain, past and present.