Reflections On A Transformative Journey For Black Men At Brotherhood Reimagined
Black men don’t often get space to unwind and reflect on our experiences in the world, so when BLK Dating extended an invite to join a “Brotherhood Reimagined” retreat for Black men held in Joshua Tree, California, at the Autocamp Joshua Tree facility, it made sense to accept.
What stood out in a cursory glance over the itinerary was the session on masculinity, but that topic ended up not being the most important part of the experience. What ended up as the most impressive part of that weekend was the revelation that self-care is not solely about things like yoga, facials, or massages, but self-care is about doing the inner work on ourselves to show up as the best version of ourselves that we can.
The weekend consisted of many personal firsts, things that Black men should endeavor to make part of our practices. Imposter syndrome, particularly for Black men, is a real detriment to our ability to love ourselves and it often shows up in how we view ourselves in relation to our work. During the love languages and attachment style session Black men were led to foster an understanding that those descriptions are neither fixed points nor strictly about romantic relationships.
Sometimes, we can feel like we are alone, particularly when we discuss deeply personal thoughts about masculinity and men and our roles in shaping a better world. It is good for Black men to be in spaces where we are reminded that there are plenty of us who are fully invested in doing the work of pouring into ourselves. The weekend functioned as a place to unplug, a place to relax and unwind from the daily stresses of everyday life. Perhaps that’s all vulnerability is, just simply being free, to be honest with ourselves and the people around us. Brotherhood Reimagined was more than a retreat; it was a workshop, a sharpening, a falling into place.
Oftentimes, Black men are not allowed to be vulnerable, but from the opening session, we were encouraged to be open, vulnerable, and truthful. It was a safe space for Black men to be open and honest about our feelings, relationships, and lives. Some of the discussions felt familiar, discussing masculinity in various forms publicly creates a bit of familiarity with that particular topic. The question about what masculinity is that was posed by the “Bridging Masculinity: Embracing Vulnerability and Sexuality” workshop session leader Stevon Lewis felt like an old friend. My own answer to that question felt familiar, a path that had been trodden down too many times to count. The answer provided rendered masculinity as a societally imposed set of values and beliefs. That answer felt too clinical as we sat and discussed the inherent contradictions of masculinity and a few of its positive contributions to the men who gathered to discuss how the expectations of Black masculinity shaped our experience as Black men in the world.
Masculinity often tells men not to be vulnerable, that there is no room for us to be soft or weak, lest we be destroyed. Honest or healthy masculinity walks a line between being a steel beam and a wilting flower, knowing that as a Black man in America, our existence is caught between a world that fears us and the people who keep us from falling apart at our seams.
It is important that Black men not lose sight of the fact that we should take the time to pamper ourselves. Getting a massage or a facial to alleviate the stress we carry in our bodies is not a trivial thing. Stress will kill you if you let it, and it is very much a true statement that our bodies are sometimes physical sites of the suffering of stress. As Black men, sometimes we get so caught up in what we have to do that we aren’t taking the time to do what our bodies are begging us to do: relax, unwind, and allow ourselves to be cared for.
Spaces like Brotherhood Reimagined are important because they keep Black men mindful that we are indeed all connected, even if our lives look different on the surface. Spaces like that are vital for refreshing the spirit, rekindling the fire that life tries to extinguish. It was more than being removed from the distractions and the demands of deadlines for me; it was the addition of brothers committed to becoming the best versions of ourselves despite the noise outside.
It did not take long to quickly realize that what occurred over the weekend of Aug. 17–20 was too big to be contained to a reflection of a single session. The entire weekend was built to make the Black men who attended it question masculinity’s roles in shaping how we show up for ourselves and others.
Whether it be the grace we give ourselves when we are inevitably confronted by the voices that tell us we don’t belong, the open-mindedness required to try new things and take in new experiences, or the willingness to learn from everyone around us, and not become defensive when we are challenged, everything encountered was a direct challenge to the systematic destruction of the way masculinity demands Black men to destroy ourselves. Some would say that a Black man who is introverted and introspective is rare, but the weekend invited us all to meditate on how important it is that we each do the work on ourselves and then find brothers to do the work with because this world will absolutely destroy us unless we are connected.
Every Black man owes it to ourselves to open up to experiences outside our comfort zones that stretch and grow us. Experiences like those created by attending Brotherhood Reimagined, presented by BLK Dating are keys that allow Black men to unlock the best versions of ourselves, despite the noise around us.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of this publication.