Andrew ‘A.L.’ Johnson saw a need for a safe space for men. Some place where they can come together and talk about mental health, fatherhood, marriage, and find healing without judgement.
As a man who grew up in a single parent household without his father, Johnson realized much later in life how much it affected his life.
“I finally opened up and I started reaching out to some of my friends and learned that all of us really have the same problem. It’s a generational issue where we’re all growing up without our fathers,” Johnson said. “And I wanted to create a space where men can come together and talk through these things and help each other through it.”
He started the online community Elevating Men last December, with a panel of five men who go live on the Elevating Men Facebook Page and talk about the different issues that men may face. The panel, which includes Johnson, Leron Barnes, Loren Jones, Michael Patton and Andrew Boykin, range from 30 to 60 years old and speak to a number of different experiences.
“We’ve got a really good mix of ideas, which brings a lot of depth to the conversations,” Johnson said.
The panel has live discussions every Monday at 7 p.m.
Johnson also brings in guest speakers like Kenneth Cheadle, a life coach and author who shared strategies to overcome personal struggles and adversities.
Another guest speaker, Roy Scott, talked about his brand Healthy Hip Hop, which takes out negative messages in hip hop and rap music while keeping the same beat and rhythms.
Other topics the panel and guest speakers talk about are police brutality, digging deep into Black anger, the value of a man and the importance of unity.
All discussions are posted on the Elevating Men Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/elevatingmen.
While many of the conversations Elevating Men have, take place on Facebook Live, Johnson is working on making the group a nonprofit and hopes to continue impacting Kansas City’s community offline.
Earlier this month at Harris Park, Elevating Men hosted their first in-person community event called The Bridge, which connected men and boys in the community through games, activities and fellowship.
“The boys absolutely loved it and through that good time, we were able to also impart some life skills and help them through some of their emotions. It was a really great experience,” Johnson said.
The group also has a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Johnson encourages men in the online community to become mentors for the program.
According to Big Brothers Big Sisters, there are more than 200 children on list waiting for mentors.
“Just imagine a kid who may be fatherless and already has that feeling of unwantedness and you’re on that list for months because nobody in the community steps up,” Johnson said. “And then when they do find a mentor, a lot of them don’t look like the children that they’re needing to serve. Then there’s that barrier of trust and culture, so we’re trying to encourage more mentorship in the Black community.”
Johnson said Elevating Men will continue to grow in the upcoming year with the goal of making positive change in the community. He hopes that in the next five years, there will be chapters of Elevating Men in other major cities.
To learn more about Elevating Men, visit their website: http://elevatingmen.com/.