On Saturday night, the Atlanta-based nonprofit Men Stopping Violence presented its annual True Ally Award to the Good Men Project. At the event, hosted by CNN anchors Don Lemon and Richelle Carey, I accepted the award on behalf of GMP.
The True Ally Award (which was presented last year to musician and activist Tim McGraw) was in recognition for our work in creating a space to start a new conversation about men. We were honored, I was reminded in the introduction to the award, not because we propose one narrow standard for “goodness” but because we refuse to accept our culture’s dismal view of who men are and what men can become. While the media promote the idea of a “masculine malaise”, at GMP we’re talking about men who are actively engaged in the culture, in our communities, and in our families. Our editors and writers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and share little in common other than a commitment to involving men in the conversation—and the solution—to the challenges that grip our society.
This honor comes early in our life as a project. As I told my hosts, when I learned that GMP had won the award, I felt a little bit like President Obama must have felt when he heard he’d won the Nobel Peace Prize eight months into his term. “That’s awesome”, I thought, “but now we have to go out and continue to earn it.”
But as I learned on Saturday night, in the eyes of many, we’re well on our way. Men Stopping Violence was recently contacted by a young man from rural Kenya named Moses. Distraught over the rape epidemic in his country after his country’s disputed elections, he started looking for resources about what “good men” could do to stop the violence. The first site he found was ours. From what he read at the Good Men Project, he got the inspiration and the encouragement to believe in the possibility that men could make a vital difference in changing the hearts and minds of other guys. Moses then found Men Stopping Violence. MSV is launching in Kenya, and will soon bring Moses to Atlanta for a month-long training program. GMP opened the door for that to happen.
As I told the several hundred people at the gala on Saturday, there’s no question that men need to change. But before we can change men, we have to believe men have the desire, the willingness, and the capacity to change. And in order to believe that, we have to believe in men’s essential goodness.