Capturing Impact

Our Recap of A Gathering of Leaders 2014

Room for Debate: Facing Tensions Within Our Movement This working plenary was designed for participants to have honest, constructive discussions—even debates—in order to deepen our collective analyses, strengthen collaborations, and build our power to contribute to more equitable communities.


Manuel Criollo Labor Community Strategy Center
Phillip Agnew Dream Defenders
Ray Colmenar The California Endowment
Kanwarpal Dhaliwal RYSE Center
Berta Colón Public Interest Projects
Jelani Cobb University of Connecticut

Main Points

  • This is an effort to create a space in this venue for an honest discussion about the tensions that exist in our work. The reality is, if there are not real tensions, it is not real work.
  • We don’t have enough spaces, as a movement, to come together and engage in discussion about tension and opposing viewpoints.
  • Sources of tensions include gender, movement integration, national vs. local efforts, and the inclusion of API, Latino, and Native populations.


  • What does gender really mean? What does programming in BMOC (boys and men of color) work say about how we frame masculinity? Is this beneficial or harmful for BMOC populations?
  • Using a historical lens, we have to look at the gender ideals that we hope not to replicate.
  • We cannot move forward by espousing patriarchal ideals. It would place us in a very precarious position.

Movement Integration

  • How do we make sure, as we are thinking about the critical work of BMOC, that issues don’t get sidelined? How do we make sure the BMOC movement is integrated in movements of civil and human rights?
  • To avoid marginalization, we have to talk about these things in the systemic way that we are oppressed.
  • We need movement identity. It’s going to require more than initiatives or programs.
  • We know what we are against, but what are we for?
    1) Rights—What are our human and civil rights that we should fight for?
    2) Resources—My Brother’s Keeper has no resources. We’ve gone through 40 years of resource depletion and retrenchment in our communities.
    3) Redistribution—Our history in this country is exploitation of our land, bodies, and labor.
    4) Reparations—We need an actual atonement for the crimes that this country has done to our people.

National vs. Local

  • How do you integrate local policy work with national initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper? How do you make sure those efforts and perspectives are represented? Are the national resources being trickled down to local communities of color?

Inclusion of API, Latino, and Native Populations

  • The goal is not to elevate one population over others. It’s not an either/or; it’s about how we build healthy and complete communities.
  • We need to continue to complicate and define our boundaries and make as explicit as possible the framework we use for this work. We need to share what will be most effective for our multiracial communities.

Standout Quotes

"It is important that we do BMOC work. . . . But we also need to transform radically how we understand masculinity. This is essential, or else we defeat ourselves." Jelani Cobb
"We have embraced a codified frame that is reinforced and mediated through power and violence. Instead of asking, 'What are the masculinities?' let’s ask, 'What are the values that we push that allow for the multitudes of masculinities and femininities and other identities that inspire safety, security, and comfort of all peoples?' It’s important to shift the question." Kanwarpal Dhaliwal
"How is a society built on colonialism and capitalism going to truly and earnestly engage in elevating the people who are the backbone of the system? Who will replace them?" Phillip Agnew
"We got to the frame of BMOC because there is something particular about the intersection of race and gender. We are just scratching the surface of these issues, and we need to do it quick. We need to know exactly what we are about and how to do it. Momentum is here because of My Brother’s Keeper, and we need to match that momentum." Ray Colemenar
"We have to be brave enough to talk about what we are against AND what we are for." Manuel Criollo
"The fact that the President was able to endorse My Brother’s Keeper means that the work that we are doing is not radical enough." Jelani Cobb