‘Vulnerability Is Our Super Power’ Authors Talk Turning Trauma and Pain Into Power at BMXcel
Black Men Xcel Men

‘Vulnerability Is Our Super Power’ Black Authors Talk Turning Trauma and Pain Into Power at Black Men Xcel

(Image: Gerard H. Gaskin for Black Enterprise)

Three accomplished Black authors joined Alfred Edmond, S.V.P./Editor at Large at BLACK ENTERPRISE’s Black Men Xcel Summit to expound on the once-untold stories of their lives and careers that became the soundtrack of their successful lives.

On Wednesday, BLACK ENTERPRISE kicked off its inaugural summit with a roundtable, moderated by Edmond, with the authors of compelling books about the journeys, lived experiences, lessons, and triumphs of the Black male experience.

Edmond was joined by Shawn Dove, Founder of Corporation for Black Male Achievement, Managing Partner, New Profit and author of I, Too Am America; Jay Barnett, mental health expert, speaker, life coach and author of Just Heal, Bro; and Chris Winton, CVP, Chief People & Inclusion Officer, FedEx Corporation.

Between the pages of their books, the men told stories of pain and purpose — something that’s not always easy for Black men to do. But their shared experiences served as a catalyst to open up, in hopes that their narratives would be the change — and a charge for Black men to heal open wounds.

“If you don’t heal past wounds, you bleed over people that didn’t cut you,” Winton shared to a captivATED audience.

LEFT: Jay Barnett, Mental Health Expert, Speaker, Life Coach and author, Just Heal, Bro — RIGHT: Shawn Dove, Founder, Corporation for Black Male Achievement; Managing Partner, New Profit, and author, I, Too Am America (Image: Gerard H. Gaskin for Black Enterprise)

Winton, a leadership expert, coach, and author of C-4 Leadership: Ignite Your Career. Shatter Expectations. Take Charge of Your Lifeexplained how that motto became a pivotal touchpoint in his life. He shared a story of how after he entered into a relationship with his wife, she “took swings” at him because of her past experience in abusive relationships. Winton said that he had to teach her how to handle conflicts, something he’s learned to do through trial and error as he climbed the corporate ladder at FedEx.

“When I met my wife, we met in college and start dating for six months, and had that first argument. You know, that first one, and she took a swing. I’m like, ‘Whoa, where all this come from?'” he shared.

“And so, you know, I had to grab her like what? Well, we’re not going to do this right here. And then I learned she had been in an abusive relationship. And I said I get it. But let’s be very clear. I’m not gonna swing. I’m gonna just move on. And I would tell people in corporate America today to understand you had a bad match. Somebody did you wrong. I’m not going to invest too much time into this…It’s easier for us to move on.”

While Winton worked to advance from being a “C” student to climbing the corporate ladder to the C-Suite, Jay Barnett, a two-time suicide survivor struggled to climb out of bed most days.

Barnett, an ex-NFL player turned therapist, chronicled his journey and struggles with depression, which he said stemmed from unresolved childhood issues and trauma.

LEFT: Chris Winton, CVP, Chief People & Inclusion Officer, FedEx Corporation — MIDDLE: Jay Barnett, Mental Health Expert, Speaker, Life Coach and author, Just Heal, Bro — RIGHT: Shawn Dove, Founder of Corporation for Black Male Achievement, Managing Partner, New Profit and author of I, Too Am America — (Image: Gerard H. Gaskin for Black Enterprise)

When Barnett’s bright NFL career faded to black, his life took on unnecessary roughness which led to two suicide attempts.

“I came from a family of pro athletes. That’s what the expectation was, you go to the league. And for me when football was over, I didn’t really have a sense of identity without a helmet,” Barnett explained.

“And through my battles with depression, and as I’ve shared publicly, I’m a two-time suicide survivor. That led me to really take a journey on the discovery of mental health, and the state of how our quality of life is associated with our mental health. And so since then, I went back to school and became a therapist. I’m a year out from my Doctorate in Public Health Administration,” Barnett said.

He continues: “Through my mental health journey and going through therapy, journaling was how I found my voice. Especially when you’ve grown up in a household of faith… when you do have an issue, you pray about it. And we’ve learned how to take things to the altar and lay them down. But when you don’t have the understanding, and the practical tools, you will pick it back up,” Barnett contends.

However, Barnett said many men sit on the sidelines holding fast to their hurt.

“So while we are successful, we have the careers book, we’re broken,” said Barnett, author of Just Heal, Bro.

“We succeeded in corporate America, but we’re broken little boys who have issues that we haven’t addressed. And so our insecurities are hidden behind our achievements. And so I wanted to write something that challenged men to find their voice emotionally. How can we live from the depths of our emotions, right, because our emotions are to serve us and not control us.”

Dove, who revealed that as a child he was abducted, said writing his book was therapeutic.

“Maya Angelou says, ‘There’s no greater agony than to bear in an untold story inside of you.’ And so writing and publishing this book for me, just like these brothers here, was a healing process. I’ve been journaling and writing since I was 16 years old.”

“Vulnerability is our superpower,” Dove said.

“There is another brother or sister whose breakthrough is dependent upon our vulnerability. And Jay writes about trauma and avenues about how to release ourselves and heal from trauma. And through the writing process, I realized that yes, there’s unreconciled trauma, but there’s also unrecognized trauma.”

Said Edmond, “These books are not just to be read for entertainment information. They are a catalyst for action in real life and the campaign for black male achievement both in terms of the boys and men you serve in the companies and organizations that you grew in, to provide resources.”