What is manhood? What are the ways in which it is lacking? How can I, as a man, better myself for my home?
Those are just a few questions posed by organizer Lakethen Mason that he hopes can be answered during the Maximizing Manhood Symposium at the Halloran Centre of Performing Arts and Education Theatre in Downtown Memphis March 8-9.
“Manhood is fluid,” Mason said during an interview with The New Tri-State Defender. “There are a lot of cultural issues we must look at that prepare young men, of all generations, to take care of their homes.”
Panel discussions involving 36 men from varying backgrounds will punctuate the symposium. The goal is to provide information and points of reference to help attendees move forward toward realizing their untapped potential as men living in the Bluff City.
As part of the symposium, there will be a business expo, as well as other opportunities.
Mason and two of the designated panelists – the Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher and Thurston Smith – visited the TSD in advance of the symposium. The 48-minute conversation pivoted from the particulars of the two-day conference to a deeper exchange about the intricacies of manhood: definitions, interpretations and the processes of how manhood can be achieved by any and every man.
“When I was a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things,” Smith said, loosely quoting 1 Corinthians 13:11. It’s scripture many use when encouraging young men to grow up and handle responsibilities and rites of passage.
Smith also made references to young men’s attire, urging them to “pull their pants up.”
“What we witness is often a level of cognitive dissonance,” Smith said, meaning that a man’s thoughts and behaviors may clash, causing inward and outward conflict.
Fisher said it was important to “sift through the difference between responsibility and respectability.”
Mason added that everyone with an opinion should be able to vocalize it.
“If we’re all the same at the table ideologically, then we’re only fighting a losing battle,” he said.
The symposium, said Fisher, “is bringing together a very wide range of black male representation. …
“When you look at this roster, it still ain’t scratching the black male excellence in this city.”
After the conference, the real works begin with Fisher, Mason and Smith focusing on a central theme – “accountability.”
“We hope other people will convene some of these conversations,” Fisher said, envisioning similar events.
“We’re not just filling up the room with 700 men,” Mason said. “We need to be able to break down whatever our lack of understanding of one another is so we can move forward so we can create the prosperity and productivity we deserve, even right here in the heart of the city of Memphis, Tennessee.”