Sumayya: Give us some love. Thank you. My name is [Sumayya 00:00:08] Fire-Coleman and I'm going to be your event interviewer and moderator for today and you all do look good. Yes, I agree with everybody else who's been up here. This is really intimidating. It's all good. I got my people over here who are going to give me some good energy and my people over there. Thank you.
Yeah. Beth Richie put things in perspective for us on yesterday about holding our work in love and I want to echo that and I want to say, give a shout out for Tony and Tanya and Lena that we have done our work across this country for years with that same perspective of holding the work with love. What we say is, "Nothing but love," that this work is a gift and so, what I want to say for this afternoon with this panel of my brothers is that I hold love for them. Also, that we're going to talk about being authentic today. They're bringing their authentic selves, in terms of the many faces of manhood. Men embracing their authentic selves, in terms of the issues of race and culture.
As I know my brothers, they do their work in love, in community and so, today, in their conversation, we're just wanting you to hold them in love as well.
The first question is, "What does it mean for men to do this work with vulnerability and authenticity as they try to engage one another and bystanders? What does it mean for men to do this work with vulnerability and authenticity as they try to engage one another and bystanders?" Either of you can go.
Quentin: I'll go.
Speaker 3: Thank you.
Quentin: Good afternoon, everyone. I always want to pay homage to Sumayya because, a lot of people don't know. A lot of people don't know that Sumayya was my first supervisor in this work so, she really showed me love and supported my work when a lot of people really did not and I just always kind of lift that up. I think authenticity is really the root to the work around engaging men and boys. And it's really funny that is what has become I think the most effective part of the work because, when I first started doing work in group work and running batters programs, I was taught not to connect or share my story with the people in front of me, or the person in front of me. That it's really about them and not me. It became, over time, I just felt that that was not effective and I think I did good group work, but I wasn't really reaching the communities I was working in. So I think, looking at particularly the conditions of the communities that we work in, kind of the political climate, and when I first started doing the work, I connect.
At least was right after 9/11, and the communities of color, and undocumented communities we were working with, were going underground so it was really important for me and my team and my staff to connect with communities in way that we could really build their trust. So, really, telling our own stories and really working with people that were from these communities, they weren't just kind of like, dropping in and telling people what to do. It was really like hearing their stories, connecting with them. And the first way to really do that was for me to kind of tell my story. And listening to Beth Richie yesterday really made me think about it in a different way, in a sense that the idea, and also the panel afterwards liked the idea of authenticity in a course to it. And for me, growing up as a very guarded person and private person, that was really different and unique for me. But the one thing that connected me, and I think authenticity really kind of shortens the gap between me and my choices around manhood and masculinity, and in the people I'm connecting to.
I think that idea of authenticity, or love for the people and faith in the masses really shortens that distance. And I really kind of manipulated it in a lot of ways because, I only kind of used different parts and pieces of my story. I thought I was being genuine, but I wasn't telling the full story. I was really kind of manipulating it, I was an athlete in college, and raised by a single mom, and living in New York City, two boys in New York City, so experiencing racism and structural violence and also, being a child of mother who's an artist. Struggling as an artist, woman of color as an artist with two boys in New York City. So I got a good chance to kind of see her life in some aspect, learn from her story, and add my story to that, me and my brothers story. But I only used different pieces of it I thought would be affective in that moment. As I got be more genuine and authentic I kind of moved away from being strategic and just being fully vulnerable, and connecting with people of color around racism and classism in a way that really propelled my work.
Rus: Hi y'all. I'm tired. So I also want to pay homage to Sumayya and my brothers here on the panel, I have had some long term relationships with all y'all and just so supporting on to the work. I also want to just make a quick shout out to the staff of this hotel the folks who provide the food and clean our plates for us and clean up our rooms. Thank you all for that. I think part of, part of what I struggle with and it's what I'm struggling with right now. I was raised to be a perfectionist. For my dad intentionally for my mom not so much and that notion of being, as you all know that notion of trying to be perfect interrupts my ability to be in alliance with folks. And alliance with women, alliance with black and brown folks, so I've been really struggling with that. And I continue to we've changed the mantra into my household, we've change the mantra from, "practice makes perfect" to, "practice makes progress." And I'm trying to live into that mantra.
As a parent as, a human being, as an activist and being authentically in progress helps me I think, make connections with other men. And in doing this work that I cannot try to pretend like I got this I am in the process of getting this. And I actually need your help. Whether, do you mean who batter, whether it's you, sex offenders, whether to you whoever you actually need your help to continue to do my progress of getting this. I'm not trying to look talk at you, I'm trying to create a relationship with you so that we can try and move ourselves and support each other to get together.
I think particularly until recently, relatively recently in Louisville, I did a lot of youth organizing and youth work. And you know I'm old, and it doesn't really do well for me to pretend like I am hip and 20 something, or a teenager it's been a long time since I've been a teenager. And I can't pretend I'm not going to try to pretend I don't listen your music, I don't try to listen to music, so I can like, try to have a conversation with you I listen to my music. And if you all to take a slide over and listen some really good music come on. I'm biased apparently, at least for my music. I think that what I can bring is who I got. And my experience is people respond really well to authenticity whether, it's ... Louisville is 78% white, or people with white skin and so whether it's you know, African or Latino adolescent boys from the other side of town or whether it's the congressmen in Frankfurt because, in Frankfurt ... Kentucky has or has the distinction of having the most male dominated state legislature there in the country.
Either side, they appreciate the authenticity of me just showing up with who I am and what I got. What I struggle with is part of what you said around how much of me do I bring, because I don't necessarily want you all seeing every part of me because some parts of our a little bit rough around the edges that I'm with you all that I want to show. They'll probably show up anyway there's other parts of me that with other folks that I don't want to bring out because, too scary and too vulnerable. And part of what helps me is being in a community of folks that I support in terms of them being their authentic selves, and they support me to be my authentic self. Who can challenge me on that on the edges of that comfort zone. I don't want to be in the comfort zone because that's a bubble that leads me to laziness. I need support authentically around where my at the edge like, now.
Can I just tell you right now I'm at the edge? Okay, I'm two steps past the edge of my comfort zone with y'all, but I'm here with these folks. And that's what gives me the ability to kind of step here and like, kind of be okay with that I'm two steps past my comfort zone.
Pheng: So what I think about vulnerability, sort of three things come to my mind that I've learned over the years. Is one, is that as men we must be humble. That we really have to learn that part. And learn it really well because, our ego can get in the way of this work. So what that means is like, really listening. Two part listening, listening to yourself. What's happening inside of you, challenging some of your defenses as they're coming up when women, and girls, and queer folks are talking about their life's and their experiences as it intersects with the institutions and systems. Then being able to listen to their stories, right? I think we talked a lot about that, genuinely listening to their stories, meaning I have to suspend what I believe to be true in that moment, right? That nothing else is going on up here except the fact that I need to suppress my defenses because, that's my privilege that's coming out. And the other part is, listening to their story and hearing them out, and being able to amplify those stories.
So, I think in learning to be humble it mean you have to actually know how to follow other people's leadership. And you actually also have to hold true that what others are saying is also true in light of your own experiences and your own action, right? But I wish that, I think I've moved too far to be too humble, that's what I've heard. So, I wish I was like my son, I don't know how I raised a son who's like, "I want to be a leader." All the time. I'm like, "Well, that's not gonna work." Right? So he's very different than me, so I don't know how that came about. But we can raise kids like that too. I think that's the other part, is not being afraid and I think I hear that from what Quinton and Rus was sharing. The third point that I want to make is it's like a careful dance, right? That you're not sure who's going to lead at what moments. Am I gonna step on the other person's toe, or how are we moving in this right? Sometimes it's like we're just going to stand there, and just move our upper parts, then we're not going to move our toes at all.
Or at some moments, somebody is going to move their toes and I'll just sort of follow it, or at some moments I need to make a small step an inch over here. So it's like a slow dance that we have to do when I think about vulnerability, and I think about that as lessening that fear that yesterday's conversation they talked about fear. And I think that what I've learned from working with the [inaudible 00:13:44] women in my community is to actually be fearless. And I think that that's the other part about vulnerability is that sometimes as men, that fear can get in our way. And so, learning to be fearless as well. They've got nothing to lose we have so much to gain and I think part of that is learning to do that as well so, that's what I think about when I think about vulnerability.
Speaker 6: I think for me vulnerability and authenticity have really for me, meant that I embrace this work differently because for me, it's what has led me to the place where I have found my freedom to talk about the things that I've experienced. So for me, I kind of feel like it comes natural because, that was the vehicle use for my freedom. And I kind of try to use that with all the men that I work with particularly, the young men right? But I'm still kind of trying to develop some of that authenticity, some of that vulnerability because, there's so much more that ... In particular young men that I want to share, but you know there are things that I also know that I'm responsible for modeling for them, and not giving them the wrong examples of transformation. Because sometimes you can give examples of transformation and still give the wrong example of transformation. I try to be intentional about how I share things and also because, you know in my personal experience this still a lot of things I'm working out.
And also in the world that I come from, there's still a lot of fear that I carry. In particular, with things that maybe I've done you know like, I still fear systems and a lot of ways. I definitely fear statue limitations, so I can share a thing I want to share you know at certain times because, the man is always following you know so you just got to ... Being authentic, right? I'm sorry. But that for me, just those two words are synonymous with me getting to the place where I have felt most free in my life.
Sumayya: Thank you. So, we've talked about authenticity and vulnerability, and now were gonna throw a new word out here paradox, okay. We talked earlier and I was telling the brothers about in the mid 90s, I worked in a mainstream batters intervention program and at that time, I was talking about men were able to change, all right? And so, I said mid 90s and this is 2017, and weird we're still having a controversy about what are men who use violence able to change, right? And so, we're gonna talk about the paradox of that. The paradox of men working with vulnerability and authenticity to address sexism and yet benefit from and maintain privilege power and collusion at the same time
I'm gonna start with you Pheng.
Pheng: Oh, okay. I think I found this to be a struggle over the years. I think initially at the beginning it was like, oh my god I'm doing this great work right? I found a place where I could actually really leverage my power, my privilege in my community in the Hmong community and that I could really help out the sisters and really help out the brothers too and all the other folks in the community. And I come to find that I think, every day I get reminded that. But yet you still benefit right? So even in like in man forward we still have a moment come together and have conversations about domestic violence and sexual assault or how to actually be helpful to men and boys in creating spaces where they can heal. That's also men coming together and also, doing the boys' club again right? So it's like, I think it's like this funky paradox that we walk and it's a funky struggle sometimes using funky Dr. Funk here.
Quentin: just saying.
Pheng: So it's like, it's a hard balance sometimes because, no matter what we do the weed of what we try to dismantle is always ever present right? So what does that mean in the work that we do and what does that look like? I think that that looks like the case that we I often reference, is the elderly gentleman that was in the Hmong community who he trespassed into the lands of this one white gentleman, and got beaten up right? He's in his 60s and 70s, he got beat up by this 30 year old white gentleman. And the D.A. in that county didn't charge that individual, the 30 year old at all for about a week, two weeks right? So some of the young folks got together in my community, they got together, and they organized, but later on found out that he had also the 60 year old man had also committed domestic violence within his household right? So how do we hold that? And that's a hard hold for folks right? So what happened with the young folks, was that it was a hard struggle because, folks were like, "Well what should we be fighting for here?" Because he needs justice, but what about the folks that he is also harmed?
And that if that were to come out, so this is the part about racism. If that part were to come out, what would happen to him would he get justice? But then, if he got justice they wouldn't be getting justice in the families too right? The woman and girls that he has also harmed, and so I think often times, where I come from at least in my community, it's like sometimes we privilege racism, the conversation of racism over that of sexism. And how do we, I think we need to talk about how do we hold those things and so that also means like as we continue to do the work we still benefit from the system because, the system is still in place right? So as I work with men who commit domestic violence, ad work with them I also I'm benefiting from what they are doing, and the work that I'm doing with them.
So I think it's a struggle, and it's a struggle that I think needs to be acknowledged and that we need to have more conversations about like, what do we do with that struggle? Do we just acknowledge it, do we do something different about it, do we create a different kind of a practice around it? And I don't know what the answer looks like or mean at this moment.
Mr. Ramos: I think for me, to answer your question I think for me, what's helped me kind of work with the men in doing this work in particular because, I work with men who batter young men who were also battering their girlfriends sometimes their mothers. That for me, is really about understanding that I'm serving not only them I'm serving in the women in their lives. And that brings me early on in my story and how I did this work because, the two quick stories I'll share that the ground me in this, and that I always think about, and the first one was, before A Call to Men was actually even an organization you know, Ted and Tony were going upstate, and we were having these men's conversations. And I remember being in, I think it was, we were Nyack, and I remember talking up there and kind of giving my spiel a presentation on domestic violence, men's role, and at the end of that you know, everybody in the room applauded me and whatever.
But there was one sister all the way in the back, and she goes, "I ain't applauding you because, you ain't doing nothing you ain't supposed to be doing." I remember I was feeling good for a moment and as I stepped to the side to talk to Tony, he goes, "You got to probably talk to her about it." So, I wasn't even going to ask him for help I was just looking for some cuddling or something at the moment so. But I also remember that same sister came up to me afterwards, and she broke it down to me why it was, and I'll never forget her and I was hoping to see her here because, she usually comes to the national conferences as Lavonne Mars. Someone who I respect, someone who I follow her work, someone who I ... You can't say to her she doesn't know what it is to be a woman going through an experience because, she's meant to do the ultimate experience.
And then the second one was. And I get just for the context I get in a lot of trouble when I hang out with Tony and Ted. Because, the stories always involve them somehow, but we were together up in New York City at the U.N. It was actually my first time speaking in public about the issue, and I didn't even go to speak sort of like you know, earlier we had a story how Tony just throws people into things. So, I was there just to bring the papers, carry the stuff. And he goes, "Go ahead, man. It's your turn." It was kind of like baptism of fire, but we were at the U.N. presenting to a delegation the women from Nigeria, and again I gave my spiel on working with men what I knew domestic violence to be, and I don't I say little element because at the time I feel grounded in the work also because, I was working as a hotline counselor helping women escape abuse. So I kind of was talking from both perspectives and I got a nice ovation from the crowd, and again that was a sister in the back.
And I remember she was in the most humbling way, and most loving way she said to me, "Mr. Ramos, thank you for sharing your experience with domestic violence and understanding of it. But could you tell me outside of that, how can I stay safe when I leave my home now that I know that domestic violence impacts women in our homes. But how do I stay safe in my village when I have to go get water for my family up the hill? And then feel like they could stone me if I don't listen to the things that they say to me, or react to it." and for me, that ground to me because, it said to me that domestic violence is not the only forms of violence that women are experiencing. They experience violence at the hands of men at all times. And that for them, it's a never a moment of safety, there's always a moment of preparing to try to be safe right?
And that it was my job to talk to men about what we need to do in order to stop violence against women and what role we play in that. So those two stories always ground me whenever I'm doing the work because I say to myself who's behind these men and if I love them then I have to do the work with them. Love them, but also know that I'm loving somebody behind them, or someone in their life, someone in their community. But that I can't do without that, that's why I always say I truly believe that there's opportunity to work with men and healing and accountability simultaneously because that's what it takes right? Working with men and saying We love you but also saying we're not going to excuse your behavior. And what you do.
Rus: For me I think that this is one of the opportunities to really lean into the mantra we're trying to raise Keernan with. I'm pretty clear that I am a hot mess. And I only have this partially figured out, which in part means to myself if I am aware of myself, that the best that I can do when I'm really on my game, the best I can do ain't nearly good enough. It's the best that I can do, and not let being good enough be a barrier from doing the best that I can. So it's a learning process and kind of breathing into that as a learning process, I can't be aware of all the ways that I'm practicing and supporting white and male privilege all the time. Or, if I was that aware, I couldn't do anything because, that's all I'd be paying attention to. So I can do the best that I can, part of what doing the best that I can to me means is listening when folks say "Yeah you didn't get it that time."
At that moment, your privilege was showing up more than your ally, more than your ally-ness. Whatever. And yeah, you don't get it and practice makes progress. Progress is not a very consistent, stable thing and at least in this person's life. I have moments where there's almost quantum leaps of progress. And the moment where my progress is almost glacially slow. And truth be told sometimes, my progress is none. Remember what it was like? I remember what it was like for me when I was learning how to play basketball. And learning how to dribble especially my non-dominant hand. And how sometimes, the day after I really got it and got it good. I was really bad at dribbling with my left hand because, I could get that. That's kind what progress looks like isn't it? It's faltering, it's staltering, it's stumbling, it's awkward. Someone yesterday used the word messy.
It's messy and how do we create space that allows folks to be messy as they're making progress, and take some responsibility for clean up the mess that they make while they're making progress?
Sumayya: One of the things I think of in hearing that is like, when we're being messy, and things are messy, and people are stumbling while they're making progress and so there's this thing called grace. But also to with grace, there's also this thing about accountability, right? So for you, I want to ask that question as you are stumbling through your mess, and the challenges are there for you particularly, as a white man. And dealing with the challenge of addressing racism as a white man. And how to dismantle racism, and how to dismantle sexism and, and the messiness is just there. Tell us a little bit about what that looks like for you and how do you not allow yourself to be you know, to excuse yourself in your progress, in your messiness how to how does that appear for you?
Rus: There were a lot of questions up in there.
Sumayya: Let me reframe that for you, so while you are learning, and progressing, and going through your mess you know, your messiness of how to deal with racism and sexism. How does that, what does it look like when you're kind of going through that stage of messiness, and not giving yourself an excuse to step back but to step forward, to step into that?
Rus: My initial reaction is I think you know it would be dishonest for me to claim that I don't give myself excuses. I probably do a lot more than I want to admit especially right now for you all because, you know I'm up here so that's supposed to mean something. That's my own take talking, not y'all. I think part of it is making sure I got people around me who are fairly unflinchingly willing to let me know when I'm in my mess. When I'm making excuses, and hold me accountable, and my own commitment to trying my best to be as accountable as I can be. and that that too is a process. I'm not sure if I answered that, or if I avoided it but that's what I got.
Sumayya: That's what you got.
Rus: For now.
Sumayya: Okay. Quentin I want to let you answer that questions too, and then we'll move into another question about paradox.
Quentin: I think it's kind of like what Jeff talked about earlier, when I first started doing this work and even sometimes to this day, I'm sure Ted and Tony, and the gentlemen on the panel could attest to this as well, I used to be maybe the only male in the room, and I would get, maybe not even get in a chance to speak at all, but at the end when we're kind of summing up the day, or event. Its like, "Oh, Q. You're presence in the room was just, you know." And I think that's a clear sign that I was benefiting from the field, right? That just being in a field, and being intentional about my place in the field. Although, I did many things, works with youth and families and what have you. But the idea of me working with men kind of put me, on another level compares to all the men. Particularly, black men right? And when I did get a chance to speak in those situations, I represented every male and every black male in particular. Every black and brown male, but I think about what came with that.
I think at early times it got to my head a bit. I don't have to say anything and I already got this privilege. And I worked at Connect and I was the first male hired full time. And I shot through the ranks, I'm co-executive director now. We're intentional about our leadership having a male, female, and even black, white, and 20 year age difference as well. So all those different factors, I go back to really quickly like the, a lot of people ask me what kind of brought me to the work. And I have two stories. I was a regular guy, I was a student activist, community activist, and I did this work because I was really about the underdog in a lot of levels. Kind of doing this work, I was like, "Yeah, we need to, what’s happening to women and girls is terrible." And I just thought I was a good guy, taking this work in, I was an athlete so I kind of used that part of my masculinity.
I was very effective with men from the batters more the clinical level, and also the informal level of running round tables and doing restorative justice groups, and men's groups and what have you. I think about the other piece, my second narrative around what brings me to work, and that was my mom. She never really, my mother and father got divorced when I was two, and my brother was three. And she never told us why for many years, she kind of held. For like 30 some odd years held what it was, and she recently told me a few years back that the reason why they got divorced because, of my fathers abuse. And so my father became all the men wrapped up into every single group that I've run. The type of level of violence, and my mom became the client for my legal program and the woman's programs that we have all wrapped up in one.
What I appreciate, it was a tough thing for my mom to hold that because, what she did in that she never down played, or talked badly about my father. Just kind of allowed me to do my work with fathers and men because, I had this hope that they can change. And I believe that they can change. I just think how if my mother told me the treachery she went through, that might have changed. And I probably would not have done this work at all. So that always grounds me. What my mother had to hold for 30 some odd years. Not telling me and my brother what was going on. But me kind of knowing, and that became my second narrative around why I do this work. So I hold both, being a regular guy who cared, and then also being that I was those kids that I was working with when I first started doing this work. That were exposed to violence and made poor choices in the community. I made different choices because of the men that were in my life, the periphery.
So that always kind of grounds me when I think about the advantages of being quote, unquote this good guy. And Dr. John Aponite who trained me, I know Ted knows. He told me there's fine line between you being in the group, or leading the group. That's kind of grounds me.
Sumayya: Thank you. While you're being authentic, I'm also going to be authentic in that I run leadership academy's across this country. I have the responsibility of representing survivors, representing women, I sit in this chair because of that. So I hear their voices in the back up my head saying, "Go deeper Sumayya. Go deeper." I have to be responsible to that. So I ask you for a deeper dive earlier and now I'm going to ask the other brothers on the panel for a deeper dive in that recently, I have been in conversations with men of color. And men of color know that women of color love them. There's no doubt about that, I heard some brothers say, "Yeah, we know women of color love us." so I want to go there, I want to say the next question is still about paradox, and in that paradox as men of color who experience the intersection of race, male privilege, and are victims of police brutality, and being held accountable for gender violence, how do you reconcile that you have that issue on your backs, right?
And at the same time, you have the issue of women of color as victims of sexual and domestic violence, and we are afraid to call police because of the experience that you're having. So how do you how do you deal with that? How do you walk in your privilege and your love from women of color while at the same time you see brothers abusing women of color as well? Was that too convoluted you know where I'm going with that, right?
Quentin: That's how complicated the work is.
Sumayya: Yeah and that's the paradox of it all.
Quentin: I think for me, [inaudible 00:38:29] and I talk about this a lot. It's that balance, so it a lot of pressure from sisters, and also from the brothers. In terms of, we're talking about how we engage men and boys who are struggling with racism and structural violence, and all those things. So it's a lot of weight, right? Then, even some sisters in the field although, lovingly sometimes always self sacrificing and are more concerned about what these brothers are going through first. So it's difficult, right? N we don't want to collude and I think that mean women collude in that because, were both socialized in this world to kind of see, I think somebody mentioned here like, race is the most oppressive thing in terms of hierarchy of oppression that you deal with first.
And even my work internationally, it's always around whatever conflict and then, violence against women and girls. I think just in the engagement, it's the holding both of that because, you have to kind of meet men where they are. From their experiences around violence and always kind of really using that to help them explain that women and sisters in our world are experiencing that same forms of structural violence and not getting the same attention because they are women, and because they are women of color. For me, what's really useful is meeting them where they are around that piece, it might be xenophobia, or whatever it may be. That they've been experiencing that creates a hopelessness, or helplessness with them, to get them to see that the women in their lives are experiencing that as well. And in the youth, that as well, maybe on a whole nother level because, they don't have the same amount of power or agency. So I think the strategy is to get them to understand what that is and that it's not just them alone in that.
Then, what is accountability? How do you ... Accountability in lieu of a criminal justice system that treats mean of color, or women of color, LGBTQ folks, trans folks in a whole different light because of how oppression works in whatever system that is that keeps them oppressed. I think it's a fine balance, but it's doable and it works. Again, it's about that authentic conversation, creating that safe space where they can speak, and holding in ... We talked about it a lot, holding somebody accountable, being loving and a compassionate at the same time. And you can do both without rationalizing the harm that they've done.
Mr. Ramos: I do want to say, my answers gonna be two, or three parts real quickly because, I think there are multiple things working at the same time sometimes. Especially for us as men of color, doing this work and the first one I want to touch on is really how if we're doing this work especially, Q mentioned that he and I try to do this in community. If we're doing this in community that we been given the space to do it authentically with the people that look like us. and with the women that look like us, and all too often one of things that I found that I struggle with all the time is, that we may be able to try to, even if we struggle with it to work at that, but then there are those who ... I don't know this is the right term yet, but I'm going to use it anyway, those actually he have the resources to run the movement.
Get involved and don't allow for that. You see especially, with men of color because I find that any other form of violence, or crime that a man of color commits they find ways to find the right programming, or the right conversation. Or the right intervention. But when it comes down to D.V. because, they run this movement they can't find the same level of allowing that space for us to work it out. So that's one piece that I'm struggling with a lot in this, and for the white sisters in the room please listen to that if you're running these organizations because I'm really talking to you. And another piece of that is that, in order to do this authentically in a community. I found you really have to show up, and learn and this is something that we early on we talked a lot about it, A Call to Men.
Show up and learn how to take leadership from the women around you, and that begins with listening. And I'll give you a quick example, about two years ago in my community. And this also goes to what Q says how we connect with our sisters in our community is very different because, outside of the domestic violence and violence against women, everything else that we experience connects us. and a couple of years ago my community was going and still is going through a major issue of gentrification. And I remember. I was at work one day and I get a phone call from the director of the local battered women's coalition and she said to me, "Juan, I got to run something by you." and I said. "Okay, what's up with what's going on?" and she said, "Well have you been reading the stories about you know what's happening on the G train?"
G train is a train that you know, we take in [inaudible 00:44:14], in that area Brooklyn and stuff. So I say, "Yeah, I've been hearing the stories been thinking about it a lot, don't know how to address it yet. Maybe we can brainstorm?" so she said, "Well let me just share this with you first." She says. So, the issue was that women coming home sometime between the time between the hours of six and 12 P.M., were being sexually harassed, followed, or even assaulted. So there was this group of what I call gentrifiers. That in my community wanted to do something with the best of intentions, and with the best of intentions they decided that they wanted to keep the women in our community safe just like the rest of us. What they decided to do was that whenever women came out of the train stops along the G train they had this bike club, and I don't mean motorcycle bikes, I mean like gentrifier clubs. With the regular 10 speeds and all that.
They will wait at the train station and as women came out they would ride along with them until the women either got to the supermarket, or to their destination. With the best of intentions right? So she explained this to me and then she goes, "How do you feel about that?" she asked me. I said to her, "Well based on everything that we know women are being followed, and women being sexually assaulted when they're coming home between these times, I'll be freaked out of there was a guy driving alongside me without even explaining to me why he's driving alongside me. Even if he has the best of intentions." so she says to me, she goes, "Well I'm glad you're freaked out because that's how I feel and now I just need to go and handle it." Right?
I knew what that meant for me was, if you're truly doing this work for the right reasons then I need you to talk to men like you, and make them understand why this isn't cool because even with the best of intentions, they freak us out as women. Because our experiences with them collectively, hasn't been good for us. And she said and also let them know like you and others that you're working with that they have to check in with us and let us know what's going on, or share with those why they want to do this, or just get that input, right? But that can go a whole bunch of different ways because we also have to talk about remember what I said is gentrified communities sometimes what you do with the best of intentions is also sometimes done because, you feel you have the privilege to do it, but that's another conversation.
And I think the third piece is making that room that's necessary for us to have these conversations, Sumayya, where we can struggle with it. And we know how to struggle with it because, I know you do it with love and you know that I do with the best of intentions. But that people give us that space and stop trying to interfere in that sacred space, because that's sacred to us. When they invade that space, they just open up a whole can of worms that bring up other stuff that we haven't dealt with as people of color. And then doesn't allow us to move forward together so those are the three things for you.
Pheng: I'll share briefly, I think for me it's a hard struggle. The two brothers have shared that already in some ways. On the surface level sometimes, you just have to give in. Right? I think that we should be frank about that and sometimes it's like, "Hey, I'm not gonna deal with that at this moment." Right? So I'm going to give them a couple inches. And then some days, and some moments, it's like, "No, I'm actually am not going to give them that inch. I'm going to keep at it." and what I mean by that is really engaging them in those hard conversations regardless of what the gentleman, or that person is saying, right? I think when we look at it in deep parts like, in the ice berg and when you look deeper. It's really making sure that you're actually keeping your analysis really clear and concise, your gender analysis has to be rooted in those who are most impacted, right?
Because if you lose that, you've lost everything in this and trying to maintain this balance, and as much as we talk about love, sometimes I do believe that sometimes I have to say, "I'm going to leave you where you're at, brother. And you're going to stay there, you do what you need to do. I'm going to move." and so sometimes, it's important that as we love people, we leave them where they're at. because they may not want liberation at this moment, but I'm going to keep going, and I'll fight for you as I go too. So it's important for us to do that and I know that some of the sisters at least in my community, was like, are like hey some men don't deserve liberation. Okay, I got that. So my part in the deepest pieces of it is I will betray men at any given point.
And because the strongest part is my connection to the sisters in doing this work, and I'll give you an example. We did the skull con ability circle with this other brother who's in the A.P.I. community in the Asian Pacific Islander community, it was myself, this other sister, this other A.P.I. man, and the gentleman that we're trying to hold accountable. At the end of the conversation the gentleman that was in the accountability circles with us, not the one you're trying to hold accountable, felt so bad that he had to apologize to the man who we were trying to hold accountable. And I was like, I was talking to my sister about it, and she was sharing with that she was like, "If at the end of the day he still valued brotherhood and apologized to the man we were trying to hold accountable more so than to us as the sisters, it ruined everything." Right, it ruined everything. So that means I cannot value my relationships with my brothers as much as I value that with my sisters.
And that's the paradox sometimes that we get stuck in, is that if at the end of the day we still say I love you and you hurt somebody, I still love you, and you should still come along. Even though you're F'd up in so many ways. No, I'm going to leave you because you're so F'd up that I don't think you deserve liberation ar this moment, I need to go to the next thing. I think that that, we have to sort out for me I know that that's what's true to me. And that's how I sort of reconcile that piece.
Sumayya: All of this is a struggle right? And it's a struggle for us in many ways. I think when I think about having conversations with men around domestic and sexual violence, I think of the violence that I lived with in my own home as a child and trying to make a decision between helping my mother, or helping my father. Who was showing remorse at that time. So when I think about men need their space to have their own conversations to work this stuff out to struggle, to heal, to love one another, to be with one another, to accept men where they are. To educate bystanders, the more, and more I learn from the work of A Call to Man and other brothers in the nation, I learned that we're all struggling and that we're trying to reach a place of healing.
In the last minute, just want to give you a chance to say your last dropping jewel for the audience because we are out of time. Start with you, Juan.
Mr. Ramos: I think if we're ever find true hope and healing for men in doing this work I think that we have to, as men begin to listen to the impact that we all collectively have on our sisters. Because that informs the work that we need to do, and in doing the work I think that we need to be intentional about saying, "Yes I want to do this work with you, but we need to talk about and undo some of the things that you've already done to hurt somebody in your life, or contribute toward hurting someone in your community." and I think that we need to do that work in a way where we also can't be afraid of people regressing a little bit. Because, we know that they can't overcome. I'm 42 years old and I'm still trying to overcome all the socialization that I've received as a man. And I know that I couldn't do that in the first 20 something years of my life because, it was so much.
But I thank God every day that there are men in my life who continue to say, but you still have to work at it. You still have to try to do it, and you also have to be the example for other men. But I'm just as glad that they're women in my life that say, I'm going to give you the room to do it, but when you F up, I'm going to remind you. And I'm gonna do it gently, but I will make sure you feel it. Yeah, it could be just like that. But that I embrace that and I welcome it because, the world that I want to create as a father right? I want to create a world where my daughter's going to be safe, but a world where my boys aren't perpetrators all the time. And that can mean literally, perceived. I'll leave it there.
Pheng: I think about like, we were in the conversation last week, or some time this week, or I forgot. I think about being authentic and that that is so simple right? It's not some far stretched idea that we have to create new and think about new. I think about like, in my community there are ways in which men are taught and boys are taught like, really rich, and genuine, and beautiful values of how to actually be good men. In community and so I think that we don't have to think too far out of the box. And I'm not talking about the Wham Box, but not too far out of that box about what it means to be authentic. Because, it could be really simple.
And I think it tells us in some ways, to go back. At least I know in my community to go back to some of the teachings that our grandparents have taught us, and raised us right? And how they have raised us, and to say what is the practice around that, rather than the thought around it. because I think so much of the time we think we are good, but in practice it comes out so bad and the impact is so bad. so I want us to think about what are the practices, and how do we practice being good men if that is what we are claiming to be. and if we are claiming to be authentic What does that mean and what does that look like? So I leave us with that.
Rus: One of things that, in the conversations that we had whenever it was, and today one of things that I'm kind of wrestling with is as we talk about authentic. Even the term acts like it's a goal, it's a place that we can somehow end up at. and I don't know if that's accurate. I don't think it is in terms of my process, I don't know what the verb is for athentisi- athentifi-, whatever. But there's a verb that I think we need to embrace and what it means to be authentic and that's the strive, and that it's in community, it's in collective, It's not something I do in isolation.
Quentin: Really quickly, I know we're out of time. I would just say that I think we're in this together, regardless of whatever their power balance is, it's gonna take the unusual suspects being allies, and accomplices to end this.
Sumayya: Thank you.
Rus: Thanks, Sumayya.
Quentin: Thank you, Sumayya.
Rus: You got it?
Rus: You good?