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Of Boys And Men: Duo join forces for special concert

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Of Boys And Men: Duo join forces for special concert

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MEN are in crisis. That is the sentiment that has inspired Colleen Brewster to join forces with entertainer Ricky Stoute to host in November this year a special concert dedicated to men called Of Boys And Men. The reasoning behind the concert is to bring greater awareness to the issues men face.
“Men don’t have a voice, especially in cases of paternity; there’s no compensation and there’s a serious imbalance in society along with a disrespect of men to the point that they believe it,” said Colleen.
“Whenever I would get together with other women and they would talk about men it would always be in a negative way, and I always ended up being the one championing their cause even if I was ridiculed for it. But along the way, my words would penetrate and help to change their thinking. That’s when it hit me that if we want to fix some of the problems men face we have to take three steps back. From there then this idea was born.”
Colleen observed that from the time most boys grew up they had constantly heard ‘men don’t cry’, ‘be a man’ and hide your feelings. “Over a period of time you learn how to become desensitized to a lot of things,” she added.
“You may not even have empathy for the person you may beat or abuse because everything is so shut down in you emotionally, you don’t know how to tap into those feelings anymore.”
Colleen also credited a recent Oprah Winfrey show where she got 200 men to talk about the abuse they faced in their childhoods, for giving her the impetus to undertake this project.
“I’m saying that we need to hear men’s stories. We need to see them as people too, with feelings like us, and we need to try to address some of their issues if we want to address our own,” she ventured.
The whole issue of men has become a family affair for Colleen. Her husband is spearheading a regional group called  “Cariman” that addresses men’s issues, and he is now in the process of launching the Barbadian arm. She is also planning to start a charity for boys to help them as they go through life.
Colleen is fully aware that launching an initiative like this for men may be a difficult undertaking, but she is prepared to forge ahead.
Ricky Stoute sees the need for this concern and is fully committed to support the message behind it.
“Men have this whole thing where they believe that they are not supposed to speak out, they’re supposed to hold everything in and be strong or else they will look like wimps,” Ricky said. “There is a stigma when you’re male about expressing yourself, because of what society is going to think and how you’ll be labelled. But men forget that through their stories they may be able to help someone else who may be going through similar situations.”
Colleen is hoping that the concert will raise awareness and give men someplace to turn when they are facing challenging situations.
“A man who is being beaten by his wife or girlfriend is never going to tell his friends ‘my wife beat me’. He is never going to say that,” Colleen said.
Both Ricky and Colleen agree that because most households in Barbados are headed by women, it has changed or affected the dynamic of men.
“As much as women think that they can raise boy children on their own, there is that male perspective that is needed,” Ricky said. “Boys need that male perspective, even if the father is not there all the time. They must have that male perspective, but it must come from a positive direction.” 
“We as mothers in society like to be really proud of the fact that we’re the ones who raise the children . . . we’re the single parent, we did it all on our own and the men get the lashes,” Colleen noted.
“Why is it then that when some of our boys grow up to be criminals and undesirables, we don’t take the credit. Why is it then that he becomes the father’s child. There are also a lot of women who withhold children from their fathers and then complain. The man is usually seen as the meal ticket and the child is withheld as punishment.”
Both Collen and Ricky hope that the concert which will showcase music, dance and the spoken word, will shed light on areas of concern for men and hopefully start a national dialogue.
“It is my hope that with a woman championing this cause, they will see us a lot differently,” Colleen said.