We need your support to continue! Become a member
The Bristol Cable

Man Up/Man Down: Talking black men and identity crises

With men’s mental health in the spotlight, this podcast covers black men and their identity.

Podcast

With men’s mental health in the spotlight, this podcast covers black men and their identity.

Photo: Noods Radio

As a demographic there’s an apparent crisis looming over black men, with mental health issues high on the agenda. We’ve been suffering in silence and we’re now recognising the need to talk.

I’d written about issues that negatively impact on black men wellbeing previously, but without encouragement from others in terms of a wider cultural and conducive environment, I lacked confidence that our issues still mattered much. So when invited to take part in this podcast exploring identity in relation to black men, I didn’t hesitate and was relieved. There has been a lack of attention on men’s issues and we agreed that there’s room for change.

“I strongly feel this particular subject is not spoken about enough. People can sometimes be quick to look the other way and I think it’s time to start talking”

On the 16 September, I joined Cory Stewart (MENTalk) to chat with Kate Mabbett, founder of ManUpManDown, in the Noods Radio studio. Alongside some spoken word poetry, we spoke about thwarted life chances, and responding to a racist climate.

For those caught up in the criminal justice system and unduly disaffected by racism, the fact that times have changed doesn’t necessarily fix the damage done – and still being done, insidiously, as Akala recently claimed.

Sometimes it really is four strikes and you’re out of the economic game. With diminished life chances due entrenched systematic bias it can seem like we’ve already lost. Looking back, hip hop may have alleviated the damages and saved me from an identity-less insanity.

MENTalk is a “movement and platform for men to express themselves,” Cory explained, “which also supports them with mental health issues.” He has been posting questions about the state and condition of men and hopes to encourage more participation.

ManUpManDown are ‘creating space for men to talk,’ having taken note of high suicide rates among men and apparent misery from which such irrational behaviour can stem. Kate Mabbett, who lost a male friend to suicide, said: “I strongly feel this particular subject is not spoken about enough. People can sometimes be quick to look the other way and I think it’s time to start talking.”

In this podcast we consider the potential crises we face:

Clearly the more we accommodate conversation, the more we learn from each other and progress to possible answers, yet all too often we seem to steer clear of ways and means to resolve men’s issues, be it depression or societal isolation. Not to generalise but we drink merrily, play games consoles, watch football, we’re party people, yet have put up and shut up instead of facing up to our problems and collectively attempting to overcome adverse circumstances.

Our experiences define us as the men we turn out to be, and if that’s disturbed and disconnected, if and when we do talk and listen, perhaps the aim should not only be about damage limitation. There are good initiatives going on, such as Restore Counselling Service doing Black men on the Couch – live therapy on stage with special guests.

Might circumstantial mental illness curb our capacity to carry on regardless? Are we resistant to compromise? Are we expressing reactive feelings of being discriminated against then being misunderstood? Indeed do we have the answers already? What more can we do to transcend this predicament?

Get involved at ManuUpManDown or via Mentalk

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

Turning down an MBE? 'It was one of the quickest decisions of my life’: Interview with author Nikesh Shukla

Award-winning Bristol-based writer Nikesh Shukla talks refusing an MBE, going from rapper to writer and returning to community activism.

BAME hospital staff told to use easier-to-pronounce 'Western names', watchdog finds

Hospital manager told Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff to go by “Western names” while on duty because their own are too hard to pronounce, a shocking inspection has revealed

‘It’s like a pain that never goes away’ - Retiring Bristol Flyers basketball player Panos Mayindombe on racism in sport

Panos was 19 when he first experienced racism on the court. More than a decade later, he isn’t sure it’s any better.

‘The police have got all the power over you’: Young Bristol man speaks out about ‘violent’ stop and search experience

A young apprentice was ‘violently’ stopped and searched by Avon and Somerset police officers. Now, the police complaints body is investigating the incident and calling for witnesses.

Watch: One year since Colston fell

Priyanka Raval speaks to anti-racism campaigners on the year since the Edward Colston statue was toppled, and questions whether the controversy surrounding it helped the movement – or simply unveiled divisions within the city.

'We should decide what happens to Bristol’s statues, not Westminster'

Ahead of the trial of the ‘Colston 4’, we spoke to Bristol University law professor Antonia Layard about the thorny legal issues surrounding statue protection, and why the legislation around statues needs to change.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday