Left to right – Sophomore physical sciences major Drue Foster, freshman government and politics major Jocelyn Nolasco, and junior biology major Hudson Drakes pose in front of the white board where topics of discussion that arose during the meeting were written. Drue and Jocelyn both helped facilitate and lead the discussion. (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)

Hudson helped facilitate discussion as a participant and was the de facto leader while BMI’s actual “president,” a term that the organization does not really use, Rhys Hall, was out, though Hudson claims he did “nothing at all.”

Black Male Initiative: A Discussion on Mental Health

During the meeting, the discussion turned to the topic of growing up black in a culture where getting made fun of was part of daily school culture. While there were some who stated that this kind of stuff was mostly in good fun, Hudson spoke up saying how it’s a problem that bullying and personal attacks are so readily accepted as necessary to grow up stronger. I asked him to expand on his point afterwards. (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)

“I think you can be motivated in a multitude of ways, I think people are more motivated by encouragement or by someone taking the time to get to know them versus someone saying ‘oh look at your haircut. your haircut is whack’ I don’t think it’s edifying or useful in making someone a better person than building them up, that’s just my personal opinion.”

Freshman Government & Politics major Jocelyn Nolasco discusses the event with me after the meeting had ended. She said she appreciated how forward and honest attendees were during the conversation even when it got to topics that she thought were discussed as if people were “walking on egg shells.” She said, “If we’re not honest with it [these “taboo” topics], it’s not going to turn into an event. It’s really gonna turn into another lecture of ‘oh this is why this is so important’ when we need to recognize what we actually think and build on it.” When asked about the significance of this type of event and BMI meetings in general: “What I love about this space is that we’re here for this open space. We can share and show that there are shared experiences between the Black and Latino community, that’s what I try to do. I’m not THE bridge on it, obviously, but I try to give my perspective as a Latina on it. I just want to show we’re all going through the same struggles and talk about the stuff you don’t get a chance to talk about often. That’s why both two of us shared our stories. We wanted to show that we want to talk about this and that you’re not alone.” (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)

Freshman government and politics major Jocelyn Nolasco discusses the event with me after the meeting had ended. (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)

She said she appreciated how forward and honest attendees were during the conversation even when it got to topics that she thought were discussed as if people were “walking on egg shells.”

She said, “If we’re not honest with it [these “taboo” topics], it’s not going to turn into an event. It’s really gonna turn into another lecture of ‘oh this is why this is so important’ when we need to recognize what we actually think and build on it.”
When asked about the significance of this type of event and BMI meetings in general:

“What I love about this space is that we’re here for this open space. We can share and show that there are shared experiences between the Black and Latino community, that’s what I try to do. I’m not THE bridge on it, obviously, but I try to give my perspective as a Latina on it. I just want to show we’re all going through the same struggles and talk about the stuff you don’t get a chance to talk about often. That’s why both two of us shared our stories. We wanted to show that we want to talk about this and that you’re not alone.”

The entire discussion white board that was filled out by facilitators as the evening went on. (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)

The entire discussion white board that was filled out by facilitators as the evening went on. (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)

Junior Environmental Science & Policy Major Daniel Jjemba, a participating member of Black Male Initiative sits down with me to talk about the mental health event. He says the thing that stuck out to him the most from the meeting was “that black people do pay attention to these issues and we are trying to consciously get better. A lot of times it feels like nothing’s going on, or like things aren’t changing, but I feel like we will be able to go out into the world with our friends and people we know and we will be able to make mental health less stigmatized and more of an issue we’ll be ready to tackle honestly instead of pushing aside for others and ourselves.” When asked why he attends weekly BMI meetings: “I just like being around motivated, young black people, it’s cool. Sort of like a support system for each other. no mattwer what we’re talking about, we’re all college students, we’re all black, we all have an idea of what we’re going through so it’s cool to see how other people deal with the same issues that you’re going through and we can help each other through that.” (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)

Junior Environmental Science & Policy Major Daniel Jjemba, a participating member of Black Male Initiative sits down with me to talk about the mental health event. (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)

He says the thing that stuck out to him the most from the meeting was “that black people do pay attention to these issues and we are trying to consciously get better. A lot of times it feels like nothing’s going on, or like things aren’t changing, but I feel like we will be able to go out into the world with our friends and people we know and we will be able to make mental health less stigmatized and more of an issue we’ll be ready to tackle honestly instead of pushing aside for others and ourselves.”

When asked why he attends weekly BMI meetings:

“I just like being around motivated, young black people, it’s cool. Sort of like a support system for each other. No matter what we’re talking about, we’re all college students, we’re all black, we all have an idea of what we’re going through so it’s cool to see how other people deal with the same issues that you’re going through and we can help each other through that.”

Featured Photo Credit: A photo mid-interview with Junior Biology major, Hudson Drakes after the event had ended. The thing he wants people who come to Black Male Initiative meetings to get out of them is that the organization is about “encouraging students into a community that is not only about education but about being socially aware and socially progressive. When they come to BMI, they’re coming here to learn about community  and say ‘we can learn something from individuals beyond doing school work.’” (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)

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