"They Buried him in a marine jacket...with a marine guard gun salute. And they buried him in his dancing skirt, red in colour, in which he danced so many times and pierced at the dances so often in order that "the people might live."...He saved lives, literally. He healed, literally. And above all he got others to save themselves...
- Mathew Fox on Buck Ghosthorse
It is well documented that when a society goes through times of trauma, or change the men are often the first to fall apart, suffering from the loss of their traditional identities. In these communities, male suicide shoots up, as does drug and alcohol misuse, violent crime and violence against women.
In my life I have worked with issues such as violence against women, human rights,child protection and human trafficking, youth development, racial inclusion mentoring and mentoring programs for men returning from prison and dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. This work and my own struggles trying to find a place as a whole and balanced man in our society has shown me that we desperately need to improve how we raise men in our culture. At these times of change and uncertainty accross the world I think this is crucial not just for our men, but for our women, children, communities, nations and the planet that sustains us.
In the Uk there are around 1.6 million registered drug and alcohol addicts, 78% of suicides are men and around a quarter of all women will experience physical, or sexual abuse by the time they are 16. Boys consistenly underperform girls in school and higher education and 80% of the UK prison population are Men.
And these are just a handful of the signs that something is wrong with the way we are raising our men.
The project I am proposing is to work with the Men of the Lakota People of South Dakota USA.
The Lakota are certainly not removed from the issiues of our communities in the UK, in fact in many cases they are experiencing them to extremes we may rarely see. And yet, their communities seem to have developed very successful skills and methods for raising their men and women within their commnites.
The few Lakota I have already met have struck me with their balance, generosity of spirit, wisdom and fierce comitment to life - all life and to their people and the wider world. For the perfect example of what I mean you can watch this talk by Pat Mcabe "Woman Stands Shining" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiDmB0ICVsM.
The first time I saw Pat talk was a key moment for me, watch the talk, you'll see why.
I have been given the very fortunate opportunity to spend time with the Lakota over the period of their anual Sundance Ceremony. This is the main ceremony of the year where the Sun Dancers will engage in the act of offering of themselves for the renewal of their people. Whilst there, I will be aprenticed to the men helping over the period of the ceremony, this is the first visit of a 5 year comitment to attend the Sundance. Whilst there I hope to learn more about the practices and methods the Lakota people use as teachers, mentors and as a community to help guide boys into full and balanced adult men. Methods I will then bring home to benefit communities in the UK.
Having experienced the best and worst methods our culture engages to raise young men and seen the contrast in the the way the Lakota People aproach the sames tasks, I know that there is much I can learn from the Lakota to bring back to my work here in the UK with Men and young people.
I am looking to raise £2000 in just 8 weeks, for flights, in coutry travel and food and board whilst with the Lakota.
Although I am full time employed, I am only just earning a living wage and just don't have the ability to raise all the funds by June the 1st when I need to leave.
This is part of a six month tour of the USA, where I shall be visiting men who are engaged in supporting young people and working in different communities to be the change we all need to see in the World. During my time I will be collecting the stories of the men I meet to draw together a "narrative of life" for men in the 21st century. As I look at Men and their roles, I see the first and most important gift we can give to our young and to each other - women included - is to tell the stories of who we are as individual human beings and what our experience of being human is like for us. I know there will me much wisdom and learning in these interviews for us all and therefore will be looking at ways to publish and use this material to benefit as many of people as possible.
In setting up this crowdfunding campaign my experience is showing me that it is a vulnerable thing to ask for help from strangers, but I know that I cannot do this alone - and, my confidence in the ways in which my learning from the Lakota will directly benefit the work I will do with men when I return to the UK, intuitively tells me this vulnerability is neccessary and that we become stronger as individuals when we work together.
A gift towards my project no matter how small or large is a truly generous thing to do - thankyou! Anyone who donates to this project will be invited to join a page I am setting up to record my time with the Lakota. The hope is this page can act as a hub for anyone who is interested to contribute whatever they like, experiences, thoughts, conversation, on any of the themes and issues around men and manhood that come up during my journey. In these times we all have a part to play and an important voice to give, I hope much will come from the people, ideas and wisdom that can come together on this page.
If you would like to know more, or get in touch with me then you can check out my Raising Men Facebook page. I will be regularily updating with thoughts, links, ideas around Men and manhood and anything that seems relevant, or interesting:
So please, just £2000 in 8 weeks - and hopefully see you along the way,
Thankyou for beleiving in me and supporting my project!
Who am I...
Am am a 37 year old Man who has spent years struggling to work out what it means to be a "man" in the 21st century, and figuring out what I can personally do in order to best contribute to resolve the myriad of issues and problems we all face at this point in history, rather than just ignoring, or being complicit in the creation of these problems. The experiences that I felt as a teenager and young man, the wounds, the mistakes, the confusion have all given me the perfect tools to support and inspire young people. To meet men exactly where they are at and to help them face their own stories in order to benefit the larger stream of our cultures collective stories, which affect us all.
This journey is as much about my path as the work that I hope will benefit from it. I know that my place in the World is centered around supporting men, helping them to grow into themselves, to take control of their lives and to become active participants and loving, compassionate warriors for their communities and for the planet. Following my own path in this way, is my part of being the change I want to seee in the World.