You don’t need to be a man to “man up,” but a community touched by violence is encouraging males to step up to the plate and become “responsible men” in their neighbourhoods.
902 Man Up was created by Marcus James and Peter Campbell last May. The community-based organization
was formed in response to an outbreak of homicides in the Halifax area, of which, over a third of the victims were African Nova Scotians.
“We felt that we could do something,” says James. “Let’s not wait for anybody else.”
The project aims to increase mentorship across the historically Black communities in Halifax, challenging males to take initiative to promote a positive lifestyle, education and community service. The group of nearly 100 volunteers is a cross-generational exchange made up of older and younger Black men.
“We felt the need to reach out to our younger Black men to really understand where we dropped the ball,” James explains. “That type of healing is not something that outsiders can provide, it has to come from within our community.”
Despite change over the years, James believes black youth face many of the same hurdles he did in his past: among these are a lack of employment opportunity, a failing education system, violence and crime.
“We want to relieve that pain because once it gets locked in you, it’s very hard to get rid of,” James states.
James’s family grew up in Halifax’s north end and has family from Preston. Even with a supportive household that pushed education, he says he still “fell through the cracks.”
“I was still impacted by the influences of the street,” he says. “You are subject to your environment.”
902 Man Up plans to change this environment through dialogue and action.
Campbell, who grew up in the community of Mulgrave Park, says he makes an effort to communicate with youth
he’s run into through the program.
“I talk to a lot of kids,” says Campbell, “If most had someone to talk to like I did when I was growing up, it would make a difference.”
The program works to show Black males as engaged citizens, family members and leaders—an image James says is lacking in the public.
“We created 902 Man Up to showcase the good things that are happening in our community.”
The group’s participants are creating momentum through cultural events and fundraisers, including a scholarship fund for Black students at Saint Mary’s University and a back to school drive that provided 300 students with school supplies in August.
that the program is inclusive of all genders and ethnicities, with Black males taking the lead.
“There’s a lot of women that raise kids on their own, so ‘Man Up’ can mean a lot more,” says Campbell, who thinks of his own mentor, his mother, when he hears the phrase. “We’re here for everybody. It doesn’t matter who it is, we’re going to do what we can to make things better.”
James says the organization
is thankful for partnerships with the Halifax municipality and professional organizations
such as the Halifax fire department and the Halifax Association of Black Firefighters in promotion
of their efforts.
The upcoming 902 Man Up Family Day event will take place this Sunday, June 25 at the Oval from 2-6pm, and will include a free barbeque, face painting, African drumming, firetruck tour and a firefighters’ obstacle course.
“These are people that save lives,” says James. “We want to highlight the opportunities that exist and show our young people how to achieve their dreams.”