With school out and the temperatures hovering around the 100º mark there is no doubt that summer has arrived. I hope that you are all prepared and able to enjoy some vacation time and to take advantage of the change in life’s tempo that a summer schedule can often mean. For those whose schedules are not affected by changes for summer I hope that you at least find some way to fully enjoy the warmer temperatures and opportunities for outdoor recreation.
I want to share with everyone the accomplishments of the past year that The Men’s Council organization can tick off.
- The Raleigh Gathering of Men under the joint leadership of Dave Davenport and John Hall continues to organize regular monthly meetings with the joint sponsorship of MKP and TMC. The topics have covered a wide range of interests and have attracted attendance by groups numbering anywhere from 6-8 individuals to 20-25, depending on the interest generated by the topic.
- Bennett Meyer again offered the facilities at Soltera and a planning group and the Raleigh Gathering with Dave Davenport arranged two mini Gatherings, Fall Feast in September, 2014 and Winter Fest in February 2015. These were mixed gender Gatherings that enjoyed good attendance with games, poetry and pleasant fellowship around a dinner table.
- The most outstanding recent accomplishment was this spring release of the TMC video to help communicate what our work has been and is about. Entitled “In the Safety of Men” this video provides an effective way to understand the work that men do when they engage one another in authentic conversation and open their hearts to one another. We are indebted to Chris Baucom for his dedication and the contribution of his time and expertise in creating this beautiful, moving tribute to the process of men “becoming real” and stripping away the masks and ill fitting roles that we are asked to play by society. We also need to acknowledge the contributions of all the men who agreed to provide their testimony and to give a special thanks to Jim Neill who did yeoman’s work scheduling and organizing one of the day’s taping. If you have not already watched the 14 minute video, you can get to it by going to the TMC website (themenscouncil.org) where you will find a link on the home page.
- TMC ran its second election since our reorganization and now we can designate three classes of Board members as determined by the the end of terms of office. Your current Board members by class and office where appropriate are as follows:
- Class of 2016: Evan Nash, Larry Sorkin and John Sullivan (Treasurer)
- Class of 2017: Phil Cole, Jimie McBee, Jim Neill (Secretary)
- Class of 2018: Jarod Brown, Doug Jennette (Vice President), Bron Skinner (President)
- In April we held our 20th annual Men’s Gathering. There was a healthy turnout with 68 men in attendance, which, excluding our recent record last year of 82, is comparable to the average of the last five years of 72. The weekend was judged in evaluations to have been a success and the Saturday night ritual produced deeply moving experiences for many participants. We will want to look for ways to address some of the points of critique for next year by including more drumming and opportunities for personal sharing and poetry reading. The weekend was, as expected, not a financial gainer. We opted to provide t-shirts to celebrate our 20th anniversary of this event and, though we raised the registration fee some to help cover added expense, it was not sufficient to cover the added cost. As a result we estimate that we fell $1,500 short of covering the cost of the event this year. Fortunately, wise management of past years’ events left enough padding in our bank account to cover the deficit and we see no financial difficulties as a consequence.
- Finally, we want to mention that we are developing a new version of the TMC website using WordPress as the foundation. Our web masters, Jim Neill and Chris Baucom are in the process of moving data and information from our current Google-based site to the new one. We anticipate that this move will provide a more attractive and more functional web presence. Stay tuned for further announcements on this front.
Looking to the future, you should all be apprised of the upcoming weekend Gathering Planning Retreat which is scheduled to occur Oct 30 – Nov 1 at Larry Sorkin’s “retreat center” near Taylorsville. Anyone wanting to join in the planning process for next April should contact Larry Sorkin (firstname.lastname@example.org) and get on his list of participants.
The TMC Board will have a one day planning retreat that same weekend. We plan to arrive at Larry’s on Thursday, Oct 29 and spend the next day discussing the future of TMC. We will set goals and targets for the year to come. We want TMC members to feel free to join us at the meeting on Friday and also want to invite your input and ideas for improving our outreach and effectiveness as an organization.
As I close out this message I want to acknowledge the sadness I feel with regard to the recent shooting event in Charleston, SC. The senseless loss of human life takes many forms in our world. Somehow, this was particularly poignant and, like the devastating destruction of innocent children that occurred at Sandy Hook 2½ years ago, should bring us to our senses with respect to how we regulate guns in our society. But it won’t. So we can leave that to the politicians and lobbyists to do with as they will.
Of greater concern to me is the racism that appears to have motivated Dylann Roof to commit the unthinkable act of walking into a black church, sanctified and holy ground by any civilized measure, and murdering nine people. Sadly, we are learning that, while all the endless demonstrations and speeches of the Civil Rights Movement led to important laws and changes in the way our society is called to treat nonwhites, they were just bandaids that only addressed the obvious barriers to equality for all American citizens. There is a deep seated institutionalized racism built into the fabric of our society that we have a harder time seeing and even a harder time admitting exists. And now we are witnessing the emergence of the effects of that racism. It sat dormant for years and lulled us into believing that all was well. Electing a black President only seems to have stirred up the dormant anger that affirmative action and desegregation efforts left behind.
Our work with TMC has served to bring to consciousness and address the effects of patriarchy (though we rarely if ever refer to this concept), another systemic with roots as deep or deeper than racism. Men’s work counters the stereotypes and societal expectations that are a function of a patriarchal system. For brevity, let me just suggest that there are connections between patriarchy and racism, and standing in opposition to one necessarily requires one to consider standing against the other. I think that it is time for all of us to include racism in our conversations and work to raise our consciousness and awareness of where racism exists all around us, just as we have worked to counter patriarchy where it affects our personal lives.
For us in TMC our focus is to support men in their personal development. I continue to believe that as long as we stay on the path to deepening our understanding of who we are, to opening our hearts to one another and our loved ones and to learning how to be more compassionate and authentic human beings that we will be preparing ourselves to work as positive contributors in our families and communities.
Submitted June 22, 2015
Bron Skinner, TMC President