Mentorship is a privilege that deserves deep reflection and intentional action. Whether we as men choose to have biological children and/or spend time with young people in our communities, how we show up matters. Much has been shared about a woman’s role in parenting and community engagement, but the topic of intentional male mentorship is just emerging into our shared social fabric. This new conversation creates space for men to contemplate and make a deliberate decision about the role they can play in a young person’s life.
As a father, husband and coach, I am often reflecting on my childhood, lessons from my father, teachers, mentors and coaches, piecing together experiences and wisdom that I feel are worth passing on. The evolution of masculinity has also brought us to a place where men are engaging in different roles and activities at home. From sharing financial decisions and household duties to active child rearing, our home lives are more inclusive and more involved. Being both physically and emotionally present for our families requires conscious participation in activities inside the walls of our homes and in our community spaces. For these new expressions of manhood, we need a soundtrack and the young people in my life have shared one of their favorite artists with me.
J. Cole challenges the rigid notions of manhood and promotes vulnerability, presence and emotional intelligence. I often use his song, Foldin’ Clothes, in my work with young men to explore different expressions of manhood. J. Cole describes a morning in an apartment with his female partner. He states his desire to help his partner with domestic tasks, preparing healthy foods and being emotionally present. He is reflective and vulnerable. It’s simple yet revolutionary. By performing tasks to help his partner, he discovers the benefits of those actions in his own life.
Foldin’ Clothes is just one example of a song that can be used as a conversation starter to discuss what is possible for us as men. My invitation to you is twofold. First, I hope you will consider intentional mentorship and the tremendous impact you can make in a young person's life. Second, I invite you to spend some time listening to young people, specifically the music, movies, and other influences that bring them hope and provide permission for them to grow and evolve.
Mentorship is a mutually beneficial relationship. My growth as a man is directly related to the honest questions and curiosities of my young teachers. Likewise, the young men I work with often model my behavior and language choices. We share vulnerable stories and they offer reflective thoughts. They don’t cuss or use sexist language.
It matters how I show up in these spaces. They will remember how I acted, more than what I said.
Jeff Matsushita, A CALL TO MEN Trainer