In The Huddle: Empowerment for men

Chris Howell and Jay Barnett
Chris Howell and Jay Barnett
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The Dallas Examiner

Chris Howell said he believes that to become a fully developed Black man in today’s society, it requires a multifaceted approach requiring work that reaches further than that which is skin-deep.

Howell – news personality, author, and president and CEO of the Chris Howell foundation – feels so strongly about his mission to prepare young Black males for responsible adulthood that he hosted In The Huddle as a way to provide guidance to youth as well as sage advice to older men who themselves may be role models. The men’s empowerment event was held Aug. 25 at The Renaissance Dallas Hotel.

Described in a promotional statement as “a half-day event created to inform and inspire men of all backgrounds to become the team captain of their lives,” Howell designed the gathering around what he considered the four compass points of manhood: health, money, coach, goals.

“I believe that men need this type of coming together now more than ever; as it appears that they have become discouraged and mentally fatigued,” the founder acknowledged in a written statement.

“As I look across the landscape at the men in my circles, I no longer see the fire in their eyes and when asked about it, no one can quite say what has caused it to go dim. It is my hope that this event will bring men of all backgrounds together to have open and honest conversations.”

Sessions held within the hotel ballroom included a #MeToo discussion, A Man and His Money, A Man and His Coach and A Man and His Health. The aspects of each topic – navigating the changing sexual customs in work and social situations, financial responsibility and independence, the art of compromise and self-improvement while keeping focused on ones’ values and goals, and living a healthier lifestyle – intersect the others to build stronger, more balanced and educated men.

During a break from the Benny Franklin life coaching session, Howell considered some of the difficulties males, especially young Black men, often have to deal with.

“One thing is a sense of direction,” he said. “As we talk to most guys, we did some man on the street interviews and actually talked to some of our friends. Right now, a lot of men are uncertain in terms of where they are going to go in the future. That whole five, 10-year plan that we used to be able to lie out so easily? Men are struggling with how to lay that out today.” Loneliness, a safe place to be vulnerable, communication, and mental health were also a few of the issues the event explored. The CEO admitted that the trials of the modern world might not even be that new for men just now coming up.

“I don’t believe that men are faced with any more challenges today than we had in the past, but I do believe that we have fewer resources available to us to help us navigate this thing called life.”

Howell described how there were men from various walks of life attending the Huddle, and he hoped to reach out to them so they could further mentor to those around them, like ripples in a pond.

“An older gentleman, who’s 56, brought in a younger man who’s about to be the first in his family to graduate from high school and the first to then graduate and go on to college,” was one example he provided.

Howell noted that expert speakers, such as colorectal surgeon Dr. Paul Hackett, Wende Burton of Communities Foundation of Texas, and author and former Green Bay Packer Jay Barnett, provided guidance on various aspects of manhood rather than Howell trying to take center stage in solving all problems.

“Oh, absolutely not,” he remarked, laughing. “In fact, I’m going to get my butt in there and listen because I understand. No, it’s not about me but it’s really about making sure that we, as men, get the tools that we need to be able to successfully live our lives.”

Back inside the ballroom, Franklin, a certified coach, teacher and speaker with the John Maxwell Team, expounded to the near-capacity audience the value of power and its manifestations.

“We have to be able to find a way to accept constructive feedback to be an effective leader,” he said. “Understand that once you allow yourself to be offended you made a decision to become offended. You chose to be offended. And when you accept that there are some areas in your life that likely need work, when that person delivering that information to you, then that person becomes powerful,” Franklin explained.

“For once you get offended, this person giving you feedback – whether you realize it or not – you have just relinquished all of your power to that person.”

The speaker offered instead that an attribute of leadership is not challenge, but compromise.

“So by definition, compromise is to make concessions or accommodations for someone who does not agree with you,” he continued. He described compromise as an acquired skill that was even difficult to master himself when it came to disagreements.

“And men always want to win. Who wants to win?” Franklin asked. Almost every hand in the room rose in response.

The principal of winning at all costs that men often burden themselves with can risk relationships and was a poor approach to conflict, he admitted. “Compromise… helps us practice grace. And grace teaches us how to love, how to be patient, how to be kind. And here’s the most important one: how to forgive.” As long as a man did not compromise his standards, the coach voiced, it was not a trait of weakness but rather strength, and an indication of growth within an individual.

It was the type of growth that Aaron Richardson the high school graduate-turned-college-student eagerly wanted to learn more about.

“Today was basically learning about how to become a man. I’m 18 years old, so I’m now going into that man-ship of becoming somebody that, in the future, will be a provider and be a supporter as well,” he said as he pondered the life he envisioned for himself and those near to him after he graduated from the University of Arizona.

“I want to take all the information even now, so I won’t have any big struggles in my future,” he continued.

During the close of the event, the founder confirmed that similar male empowerment gatherings were in the planning stages. Howell voiced the hope to develop another Huddle in October and continue them every three or four months on a regular basis.

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