“Black men have the power to rewrite the very meaning and depth of masculinity,” said Ken Walker, Detroit Organizer. (Photo courtesy of Next Steps Together)

Next Steps Together began in Detroit in 2020 as a one-page proposal and now it has become a national call-to-action and conversation for U.S. Black men. The group will convene online during Juneteenth weekend (June 19-21) to discuss their experiences of what it is like to live in America.

The goal of this gathering, project coordinator Chase L. Cantrell of Detroit says, is to give Black men a safe place where they can be honest with each other, listen to one another, and learn from one another.

Essentially, to share their “lived” experiences.

“I think there is a lot of tension with Black men right now. Both tension and vulnerability,” Cantrell said.  “Black men don’t have many outlets for emotional expression.”

Next Steps Together will provide that.  The call-to-action for Black men is especially poignant not only because of the racial tension and climate in our country, but also because of the celebration of Juneteenth, which many Black Americans celebrate as their day of liberty.  It commemorates the end of slavery: June 19, 1865 — or, rather, when enslaved Texans learned the Union had defeated the Confederates in the Civil War. 

Chase L. Cantrell, Next Steps Together project coordinator. (Photo courtesy of Next Steps Together)

Next Steps Together’s leaders hope the men are inspired to share solutions to problems many of them experience. “Black men are not a monolith,” Cantrell said.  He expects diverse, passionate and robust conversation during the weekend of online talks and workshops.

Next Steps Together is hoping for 500 conversations hosted by 50 U.S. leaders with 5,000 participants across the country, including Detroit, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York, Memphis, and Houston. 

“Together we can change the idea of manhood. Black men have the power to rewrite the very meaning and depth of masculinity. Now is the time we step up together to tell our own narratives, despite the ways the world misunderstands us,” Detroiter Ken Walker said in a Next Steps Together Instagram post. 

The worldwide protests, conversations on racial injustice and discussions on Black men’s deaths at the hands of police make this dialogue especially urgent. 

“Now is the time together to step up and tell our own narrative despite the ways the world misunderstands us,” said Shannon Gaston, Detroit. (Photo courtesy of Next Steps Together)

“Black men, even in my own circles, are calling each other and needing to talk and that’s quite new,” Cantrell said. “No matter what neighborhood or socioeconomic status, Black men are coming together – we share this dynamic of being overpoliced and marginalized.”

Interested in hosting a workshop in Detroit or another city? Find a tool kit online. 

Next Steps Together is intended to be “open source,” Cantrell said.  There isn’t one leader, and the tool kit is meant to be a guide for hosts.

The ultimate purpose is fellowship.

For more information about Next Steps Together, see nextstepstogether.com

Catherine Kelly is a longtime Detroiter and Detroit Public Schools graduate who knows that narratives matter. Catherine believes narratives create inclusion, grow opportunity, and change history, which...

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