Apr 29, 2015

Launching "Building Brotherhood: Engaging Males of Color"

by: Isabelle Singer-Kaufold

On Wednesday, April 8, we were at City Hall to kick off Building Brotherhood: Engaging Males of Color, our new project inspired by President Obama’s nationwide My Brother’s Keeper initiative. For Building Brotherhood, we’ve partnered with theDepartment of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) and their Engaging Males of Color initiative to spark conversations between men and boys of color, bring awareness to the difficulties faced by them, and strengthen that community. Together, we are organizing a series of weekly workshops in North and South Philadelphia, a series of town hall meetings, panels, film screenings, a mural by Willis “Nomo” Humphrey and Keir Johnston, and live theater performances throughout the city.

If the launch is anything to go by, this is a project that Philadelphia has been waiting for. The event attracted a diverse outpouring of people from our many project partners as well as the general public. Chad Dion Lassiter, who is helping to facilitate the workshops, spoke to how important the timing of this project is in the context of the greater conversation about race taking place in America right now. Other speakers include Mural Arts Executive Director Jane Golden, DBHIDS Commissioner Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Ph.D., and Senator Vincent Hughes.

In his comments, Dr. Evans spoke to his interest as a clinical psychologist in using art to talk about behavioral health, as well as the importance of this project in particular. Dr. Evans made the point that behavioral health issues and lack of quality services disproportionately affect men of color, which is why he believes it is especially important to for DBHIDS to engage with that community. But it can be difficult to talk about mental health, addiction, and access to services. It’s not always a conversation that people want to have. In partnering with Mural Arts on Building Brotherhood, Dr. Evans hopes to use art to overcome that stigma and get people talking.

The launch also included a dance performance by SEAMAAC’s Hip Hop Heritage breakdancing troupe, which was a surprise highlight for me. The lively and engaging performance got me up out of my seat just to get a better view of the performance. Hip Hop Heritage’s dancing exemplified Dr. Evans’ point that all kinds of art can bring communities together both to entertain and to educate. Their performance brought an added energy to the event that carried through the entire rest of the evening.

With the launch and the first town hall complete, Building Brotherhood is starting to pick up steam, and it’s already showing how art can ignite change. Keep an eye on the Building Brotherhood project page for more information about the project and upcoming events.

Photos by Steve Weinik

Last updated: Jan 27, 2016

Share Your Thoughts