On Saturday March 11, Men Supporting Men met at the Jackson Senior Center in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx to share their stories and help local youth make positive choices.

Toxic masculinity is a relatively new term used to describe the stereotypical societal expectations of men. It frowns upon them crying, sharing their feelings, or showing affection towards one another, and such expectations can have negative impacts on men’s physical and mental health, as well as society as a whole. 

But a program called, Men, You’re Not Alone, is working to put an end to the toxicity, and breed a culture where men no longer have to fear feeling vulnerable. 

Men, You’re Not Alone was founded 10 years ago by Hakiem Yahmadi. The inspiration came from the loss of his son, who died from gun violence 21 years ago. Yahmadi found there were limited resources to help him deal with his grief. Through his own fortitude of becoming the change he wanted to see, he created the support group and even visited his son’s killer in order to make peace in his heart. 

“They don’t have a book for dummies on how to be a father,” Yahmadi said.

Men, You’re Not Alone embraces an “each-one-teach-one” concept and encourages men to share their stories and open up about their personal fears and struggles in the hopes that it will inspire others and in turn, serve as some sort of therapy for themselves. 

On March 11, the group had their monthly meeting at the Jackson Senior Center at 325 E. 156th St. Topics of discussion ranged from health to child support issues to mourning loved ones, with Saturday’s meeting having a special focus on prostate health and youth outreach.

Middle School basketball players of P.S./M.S. 29 attend the Men, You’re Not Alone meeting on Saturday to heed the words of their elders on forgiveness and doing good in their community.

The two-hour meeting began with a round of introductions. Everyone in attendance was a man of color with a majority being black men aged 50-plus. “Get your prostate exam,” said God Shammgod, 69, who had his prostate removed due to cancer. As he spoke to the room, Shammgod urged everyone to shake any reservations of the invasive rectal exam. 

“The key ingredient of this day is to stop being afraid of talking to each other,” he said as he shared his story. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, African American men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at a younger age, have the advanced form of the disease and die from prostate cancer, compared to other men.

Special guest Rev. Alfonso Wyatt of the Institute for Transformation Mentoring and author of, “Beware the Mind Hustler: Identifying Self-Destructive Thoughts and Distractions,” shared wisdom and handed free copies of his book. 

“Nobody makes a plan to be a nobody,” he preached. He spoke at length of fallibility and the importance of learning from one’s mistakes and the mistakes of others. “There is not one person in this room who has not crumbled; who has not taken a fall,” said the reverend.

The second half of the meeting welcomed members of the middle school basketball team of P.S./M.S. 29 at 758 Cortlandt Ave., which was also the location of the first Men, You’re Not Alone meeting a decade ago. The teenagers sat as members took turns pouring words of love and sympathy into their ears.  

Gilly Delgado of Guns Down Life Up shakes hands with a teenage basketball player of P.S./M.S. 29 and offers words of wisdom.

Victor Ozuna, 43, of Urban Youth Alliance International has been on the straight-and-narrow for four years after a 10-year prison bid, and while it wasn’t his first time serving a prison sentence, he is now committed to teaching others from his own transgressions. 

“The wrong decision today can last you a lifetime,” Ozuna told the group of young men who were listening astutely and respectfully. 

Also in attendance were representatives from Guns Down Life Up, Bronx Fathers Taking Action, Children’s Aid and the Department of Social Services.

Gilly Delgado of Guns Down Life Up told the teenagers, “Everybody needs to be a character, what character do you want to be in the game?”

About Post Author

By ET Rodriguez

ET Rodriguez is a freelance journalist and photographer with a focus on Food and Arts & Culture and a special place in her heart for the Bronx. She received her master's from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in 2022 and has had her work published in amNY, Bronx Times and Heritage Radio Network.