As a father and husband, I’m often frustrated by the less than flattering ways Black men are portrayed in the media. I’ve grown tired of the constant barrage of images such as the hyper violent thug or the player who is allergic to commitment.
There’s obviously so much more to us than that. That’s why I wanted to speak with Brandon Frame, the Founder of TheBlackManCan Institute.
TheBlackManCan Institute is an organization designed to uplift, empower, educate, motivate young men of color. Their mission to actively promote a positive Black male image. Find out more from our convo with Brandon:
SB: What inspired you to start TheBlackManCan?
BF: I was inspired to start TheBlackManCan because M.K. Asante is one of my favorite scholars and he says, “Once you make an observation, you have an obligation”.
I made an observation while being a student at Morehouse College, that adult men need to have their stories told and young boys need to see positive images of themselves. I followed through on that obligation and started TheBlackManCan.
SB: You met your dad when you were 18. How did that experience influence who you are today?
BF: This is a great question and I can think of a number of ways that experience has influenced my life. Not having my Dad around while growing up led me to journaling. Through journaling, I was able to learn how to process emotions, develop positive self-identity and build critical consciousness.
Doing that lead me to create “TheBlackManCan Journal: Define Yourself, Redefine the World”. This is a tool for other young men to do for themselves through journaling, what journaling did for me.
SB: What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges facing young Black men in America today?
BF: There are many factors facing young Black men of today. Young men today lack positive self-identity. Ni’am Akbar says the first function of education is to provide identity and young men do not get that development through the American education system.
Another huge challenge facing our young kings is the skills gap. Young men are graduating from high school functionally illiterate. They are then not able to obtain good wage paying jobs which means they can not take care of themselves or their families.
SB: Does your organization offer any guidance or information related to creating healthy relationships with women and other Black men?
BF: At TheBlackManCan Institute we have workshops that discuss how to build brotherhood with other men and build healthy relationships with women. We want young men to lean how to express themselves while fostering brotherhood.
We also have a movement called #fallingblackinlove which is promoting healthy relationships with women. We also talk about how to effectively balance love work and everything in between.
In the future we plan to launch the Building a Better Brother Summit that will be focused on adult men and covering some of the same topics. The work on acknowledging your faults and becoming a better man does not stop once you reach adulthood.
SB: Sometimes the youth are misunderstood because of they way they dress or the music they listen to. What have you found is the best way to connect and relate to teens?
BF: The best way I found to connect and relate to teens is to meet them where they are and move forward. In the same music they listen to and the clothes they wear you can find stories to share that will uplift them and inspire them.
Many young men do not know the story of Metro Boomin or J. Cole. It might have taken me twenty steps to reach where I am at now and it is my passion and purpose to make sure they reach it in ten steps or less.
SB: In Missouri, students can now be charged with a felony for fighting at school. What are your thoughts on how students can avoid getting caught up in the school to prison pipeline?
BF: This is a very tough one because the first answer is to not make bad choices and to learn how to control impulsive behavior. To talk with a young man or lady who might have oppositional defiant disorder and say having this disorder is not going to do anything for you once you leave the walls of a high school.
I would also like schools to rethink how they do in-school suspension. There will always be students who get into trouble and make bad choices. We have to rethink how we punish students for bad choices that make them think about how they can make better choices in the future.
SB: What is the most challenging and the most rewarding thing about what you do?
BF: The most challenging thing about what I do is that I cannot save every student. I know that I will lose some and that life will be a better teacher than I ever will. I just hope the lesson that life teaches them is not fatal. It is challenging to fight against generational cycles of poverty, drugs and more. It creates a mindset that is hard for any educator to overcome.
What I find most rewarding is everyday I get a new chance to be better at what I do, think of more ways I can impact students. I get to build brotherhood amongst young boys and grown men. It was once said that service is the rent we pay to occupy our space on earth and I get to see everyday my rent in action.
SB: What is the best way for people to support the organization and its mission?