In this series on Black masculinity, we speak to a number of Black men on what masculinity means to them, what they have learned or are in the process of unlearning, and how Black manhood reimagined has presented itself in their lives and work.
Raised in Toronto by Jamaican parents, playwright and producer Darren Anthony honed his unique voice through his first theatre piece, about five black men sharing their stories of love, mental health, racial injustice, sexuality and masculinity. “Secrets of A Black Boy” launched in Toronto and has since been seen on stage by sold-out crowds in New York, North Carolina, Washington, D.C and Baltimore.
Originally schooled as a child and youth worker, Darren began his writing and performance career working his way up as the Production Assistant on season two of “Da Kink In My Hair.” Darren is currently a fellow of the Reelworld Emerging 20 Filmmaker Incubator program, adapting the play into his first feature film. He has several short films in development backed by his production company PLAYINGwithCRAYONS.
What is Black masculinity?
“Black masculinity is … very complicated.”
I always struggled with that term, because I felt that there are all these different messages about Black masculinity, [particularly in the media].
I don’t think it can be defined by my experience alone, but it includes being vulnerable, sensitive and responsible.
What did you first learn about Black manhood?
“A lot of Black males, we wear this mask that we don’t know we are actually wearing.”
Growing up, the two males in my life, my father and my grandfather, were very instrumental, but they were totally two different people. My father, he wasn’t a communicator. He wasn’t sensitive and he wasn’t emotional. My grandfather was the total opposite. My grandfather, he was very open with his feelings and his emotions and he was able to communicate, and growing up I was very conflicted, because I didn’t know who I should emulate.
Listen: Darren Anthony: The First Lesson I Learned About Being A Man Was To Show No Emotion. Story continues below.
What are you presently learning or unlearning about Black masculinity?
A lot. First, that you have to be solely a provider. I think for a lot of males, [it] just comes down to being a financial provider, and it is bigger than that. I’ve learned that it’s about being there emotionally. That is huge. It is about being a communicator, it is about being sensitive, and most importantly it is about being vulnerable. I think [for] a lot of men growing up, it is taboo to be vulnerable, to talk about sensitive issues and to just to be kind-hearted. I am unlearning that and I feel that it is important, because a lot of people don’t get that message.
Listen: Darren Anthony: I Wrote A Play About Black Men To Dismantle Stereotypes. Story continues below.
“I only wrote [Secrets of a Black Boy] because I wanted to break some of the stereotypes about Black males and also show that we're more than just one-dimensional. We are multi-faceted, and we have a lot to share with society in general.”
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