Reflecting and remembering the life of the late HHP got me thinking about my own experience as an African man…
Growing up male in Africa is one tricky terrain to navigate and gender socialisation as well as the ascription of gender roles adds to that complexity. Boys are taught to be strong, without feelings, and they are raised to be the providers of the home.
From an early age, African boys are taught the notion that men do not cry. We are supposed to be strong and that somehow showing emotion is weakness. As we grow older, we reinforce this in ourselves and internalise feelings even more thereby escelating the repercussions.
Depression and its negative effects is something that has reared its head in recent times in ways that are shocking. Only recently I received news that a friend of mine had committed suicide. It shook me to the core and left me wondering: could I not have done more? Could I not have been more of my brother’s keeper? How much of his feelings did he keep to himself in the name of being a ‘real’ man?
Humans are fundamentally social beings; we are not islands and once we take away that social aspect, we strip the significant part of being human.
As African men, may we know that there is nothing wrong with talking about our feelings. So, let us call for and support a generation of men who aren’t afraid to express their emotions and what they are going through in the knowledge that talking about feelings brings healing.
John J.J Dongo is a researcher, blogger, poet and spoken word artist. He is also the current country representative of The Human Projects and the Co-founder of Motivate. In his words art, in whichever form it may exist, has the potential to transcend boundaries and speak to people. You can find some of his work here:
Website: Jay Jay