Conference to focus on healing the community through Black men

Black men’s trauma causes families, community to suffer

The seventh annual Black Men’s Healing Conference coming up June 25-26, like those preceding, shouldn’t be perceived as pertaining only to men. The conference has always been about providing insight to empower the community itself.

Samuel Simmons
Samuel Simmons

It’s simply unavoidable that there are three key components to strengthening lives — what goes on in the worlds of women, in the worlds of children, and in the worlds of men. Accordingly, the originator, principal facilitator, and expert mental-emotional health clinician Samuel Simmons provides invaluable information to professionals who are in a position to help Black men heal personal hurt, do their part in healing their families, and, by extension, heal the community.

This year’s overview is Historical Trauma: Addressing Gender Issues in the African American Community with presenters Patricia McManus (Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin), Jason Sole (Metropolitan University), behaviorist health specialist Cleo Manago, and Simmons (The Family Partnership/SAFE). Conference material states, “When discussing the ills and disparities within the African American community, such issues as violence, drugs, poverty, and emotional, physical, and spiritual health are often discussed. When systematic concerns aren’t being questioned as barriers, the personal accountability of men is brought to the forefront.

“In addition, African American men’s trauma is typically dismissed and not addressed. When African American men suffer (directly or indirectly), they pass their trauma on to the women and children in their lives; thus the cycle of pain continues and the community suffers tenfold. Without effectively addressing the trauma, it has proven difficult to fully experience a healthy life as a primary goal.”

The afternoon keynote on June 25 is “Sexuality in the African American Community,” given by Simmons. It explores sexuality with regard to race, gender and socioeconomics and encompasses historical trauma as it’s linked to perceptions, beliefs and sexual behavior. He also looks at how sexual stereotypes consciously and unconsciously impact society.

“It’s complicated,” Simmons told the MSR, “to even have a conversation about gender [issues]. It’s difficult for each gender to trust the other. If you look at it through a trauma lens, you have to ask, ‘How does my fear make it difficult for me to trust? How does that affect how I raise my children? If there [are] issues around gender for individuals, [those] are issues in the community.’”

Simmons goes on to ask, “‘How do we help men work through their stuff so that they can be better partners, be better role models, for not just their boys but for their girls [as well]. We talk about growing up in a single-mom home, and mostly the concern is for the impact it has on young males. But also, it has a strong impact on young girls, who are going to grow into women. Think about it: How a girl grows up relating to males is affected greatly by how she grew up relating to her dad.”

Pursuant to which, one of the examples he points out is, as anyone can tell you, a common occurrence. “How do we define our masculinity? Let’s say the issue is my manhood gets proven by how well I have sex or how many women I have versus what I [accomplish].” This is exactly the scenario that gets played out as a sad stereotype.
To verify it, all you need do is look at how many women are on the welfare rolls as result of hit-and-run sex, and how many men blithely acknowledge — or even boast of — having “baby mamas” at several different addresses. Another example, an all-too-familiar dynamic, is attendant to domestic abuse.

“When we look at how female-dependent [some] men have become, but at the same time don’t trust women, especially a lot of our young men. They’re female-dependent but want to be in charge. That behavior is something you’re not always aware of, which makes it difficult to change the behavior.

“The biggest damage to the community, and we don’t talk about that,” he says, “is how crack affected women.” Sure enough, you can find a needle in the proverbial haystack faster than you can find a crack-addicted young Black woman whose life hasn’t already reached a dead end of revolving-door prison sentences for prostitution or drug trafficking, usually both.

“[It] took away the biggest protection of children; Black women have always been the biggest protectors of our children. Think back to the big mamas. Crack has [eroded] that.”

Hookers have nowhere to ply their illicit trade without men creating and sustaining their own part of the supply-and-demand market. The sooner more men are made to see women as actual human beings — like their mothers, sisters and daughters — instead of objects of sexual gratification, the better it will be for women’s chances of getting out of that life, or avoiding it altogether.

These are food-for-thought glimpses of the general good an event like this does, making a hands-on, down-to-earth difference by dealing directly with basic, chronic problems that have defied solution for decades. Attending the Black Men’s Healing Conference, you’ll get a thoroughly exhaustive, in-depth purview of just what is possible when it comes to salvaging our communities.

The 7th Annual Black Men’s Healing Conference will be held on June 25 and 26 at Metropolitan State University, 700 East Seventh Street in St., in St. Paul. For more information go to or call 612-721-0106.


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.