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Bro-fest brings the boys together 

Fifteen-year-old Darris Jones (centre), his father Al (left), and grandfather Randolph Loft (right) had a great morning filling up on food and meaningful conversation at KSCS’s Bro-fest. Courtesy Al Jones

When Al Jones asked his 15-year-old son Darris if he wanted to come with him to Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS)’ Bro-fest last Sunday to join in a discussion about violence in the community, he wasn’t sure if he would say yes.  

Not only did Darris say yes, but he also asked if they could bring along his grandfather Randolph Loft, too. Soon, the three generations of men were heading down to the Two 0 Seven Steakhouse for a delicious buffet breakfast and productive community discussion. 

“It was a great setting. It was over food, so it made people relax, which I think helped people open up,” Al said. “The staff handed out questionnaires, so it wasn’t so forced; it kind of helped people bring up the topics.” 

The questionnaires encouraged men to share their thoughts about why addressing violence in the community is important. One discussion that came from the questions concerned sports, Al said.  

“I’m really involved in lacrosse and sports, so this is important to address, because it goes hand in hand with the attitudes on the floor,” Al said. “On the lacrosse field or on the ice, sometimes people want to resort to violence right away, and they want to fight. We’ve got to break that cycle.” 

Al said that conversations at his table, where other community members had joined, touched on the root of the violence they see at sports games.  

“We really felt like it’s a cycle. I feel like through residential school and other stuff I see firsthand how it’s affecting generations. People think it just stopped with the people who went through it, but it’s trickling down through family members,” he said. “We need to change it for the generations that follow us.” 

Discussing these topics in an informal manner is exactly what Bro-fest was intended to be about, said KSCS clinical supervisor of secondary prevention Rebecca D’Amico, who is part of the family violence action group. 

“The suggestion has been to create more spaces for men to connect, to try and get their input about what they feel would be helpful in terms of creating these spaces,” she said. “One of the things we identified is that we want to promote more spaces where men can have this open conversation, to break that cycle.” 

D’Amico said that attendees discussed stereotypes that result in men hiding their emotions which can turn into anger projecting outwards in the form of violence, as well as the need for more spaces to talk about emotions and sensitive topics in a casual way.  

Around 35 men came to the event, where community booths were set up, including Screaming Chef Cuisine, Astronomical Cards, Kahnawake Youth Center (KYC), Tahoe Designs, and Ardimento Fencing, which helped facilitate conversation.  

A raffle was also held for an all-expenses paid trip to Miami, which was won by Donald Horne, Jr., John E. McComber, Larry Cross, and Travis Norton, who will join six KSCS workers for a conference about violence against men and boys happening in June. 

Darris said that the event encouraged him to form friendships with other men in the community, something he said is important for men to maintain their emotional well-being.  

“You might accidentally bump into something and then you start talking, maybe even sit down together, then boom, you have a new friendship in a minute,” he said. “Having multiple generations at the table, seeing other people, it’s cool because you’re just getting out there and spending time with people.” 

In the future, the family violence action group at KSCS wants to hold more events like Bro-fest to encourage dialogue in the community. 

“We want to normalize the idea that men are also victims but don’t always have the same platform to be able to talk about it,” D’Amico said. “We want to normalize getting help. Men are not always necessarily going to sit in a talking circle format that women might feel more comfortable doing. We want to hear from them about what they need and what they want.” 

evedcable@gmail.com 

This article was originally published in print on April 12 in issue 33.15 of The Eastern Door.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.