The Rooted & Rising Collective is an 11-week creative training program designed to enable the creators to grow their businesses and create digital content that inspires young Black men to practice self-care.
“Growing up in Rockford, Illinois, I was all the things that a regular Black boy from the hood was not supposed to be,” recalled singer-songwriter Alonzo. “I was flamboyant and I was into the arts. I didn’t look like anyone else I knew, and I didn’t sound like anyone else. I was not interested in most of the things people in my school were interested in.
“Yet, I’ve risen against the odds, fought for my dreams, and gone from being a sad, angry little Black kid who was always in trouble at school, to becoming an artist who has travelled all over the world performing sell-out tours.”
Alonzo, an America’s Got Talent semi-finalist and the first lead singer to be approved to sing on the “4 U” Prince Tour, is now determined to spread the word to other young Black men that fulfilling their potential should not come at the expense of their own physical and mental wellbeing.
“It’s no secret that historic and systemic racism has created an environment where Black men are significantly more likely to experience trauma in their upbringing,” he said. “So often as Black men, we’re working so hard to be better than anyone thought we would be, that we neglect our self-care. I think it’s important that we change that.”
To spread that message, Alonzo has joined a collective of 10 emerging Black male digital creators, aiming to change the way their audiences think and act on their health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past 18 months, the ongoing social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a huge impact on mental well-being. Movember’s own research has shown that over half of men have suffered from poor well-being and over a quarter met the World Health Organization’s criteria for depression.
Millions have had their lives severely disrupted and many still struggle in difficult circumstances, with a disproportionate burden falling on Black and other communities of color.
In addition, systemic racism has resulted in ongoing racial trauma and injustices to Black people. Enduring constant prejudice, discrimination, and bias negatively impacts mental wellbeing.
Addressing mental well-being
The Rooted & Rising Collective, launched by global men’s health charity Movember, is an 11-week creative training program designed to enable the creators to grow their businesses and create digital content that inspires young Black men to practice self-care.
Movember has invested $1.2 million into the Rooted & Rising project with the hope of engaging creators and other influencers to address the subject of mental health openly with their audiences, and sharing ways of prioritizing self-care to help develop positive habits that help build mental resilience.
Movember has partnered with the WETA/PBS Well Beings campaign and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Creators received a stipend to support their participation in the program, which is also supported by NAMI.
“For young Black men, like the Rooted & Rising cohort, it’s vital that they take care of their mental well-being first,” said Dr. Derek Griffith, Rooted & Rising expert advisor and founding co-director of the Racial Justice Institute at Georgetown University. “By building simple, actionable self-care ideas into their work, these creative entrepreneurs can build thriving and impactful businesses, and model and inspire their audiences to thrive as well.”
“I think it’s important that we find a balance between being a strong Black man and being human,” he said. Being able to express my emotions has allowed me to become a better artist.
“My manifesto to Black men is to allow themselves to ‘feel,’ because if you can feel, you can heal, and that is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to heal from intergenerational traumas and traumas in our own lives. My hope is that we can all start taking care of ourselves because we deserve it, and we need it.”
Movember recognizes the need for this kind of collaborative initiative in meeting the needs of specific communities. To learn more about Rooted & Rising and other programs Movember supports, go to Movember.com.