How Arnold Sibanda is breaking negative narratives around Black men
Arnold Sibanda’s project aims to inspire, empower and support Black men and boys on their journey to become more positive members of society – and to redress tired stereotypes.
The inspiration to create the Black Male Positivity Project came from a painful loss for Arnold Sibanda. Just before the birth of his son, Arnold’s father passed away. A principled man with strong values, who had Arnold’s best intentions at heart, his father was his role model and his greatest supporter.
When he died, Arnold realised that he needed a support system to navigate his own new journey of fatherhood, to bring up his son in a way that would make his father proud. It was from this that the Black Male Positivity Project was born.
Through the project, Arnold runs a collection of programmes that serve to inspire, empower and support Black men and boys on their journey to become more positive members of society. He wants to redress the tired stereotypes and provide the tools needed to set a more favourable example of what it means to be a Black man in South Africa.
“With the increasing reporting of Black men being the victims or perpetrators of violence, we want to spotlight the positive achievements and roles of Black men in their communities. If young men continually see themselves represented in the media in a negative way, it does not give them a lot to look up to. Neither does it help to change the trajectory of their lives.”
It is through the understanding of issues such as the impact of the migrant labour system on Black fatherhood, that we can develop appropriate support systems for modern, young Black men.
The idea is to celebrate Black men who are positive role models in society, in order to create a space for discussion and learning through honest reflection. And to facilitate healing through the unlearning of cultural or patriarchal practices that do not serve the best interests of modern life in a 21st-century society.
Arnold believes that by engaging with the stories of Black men that break the prevailing narrative, whether through in-person discussion or through literature, he can help to change the future for young men who are trying to navigate a world that they have not been properly equipped to deal with.
“In our recent support group meeting I realised that most brothers are parenting through generational trauma, and are not aware of it. It is through the understanding of issues such as the impact of the migrant labour system on Black fatherhood, that we can develop appropriate support systems for modern, young Black men.”
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The values of family commitment, leadership and support are achieved through several different programmes which have been developed to provide men and boys of all ages with a range of tools to facilitate growth.
For the younger generations, Arnold has identified the need for opportunities and skills development that facilitate engagement with positive stories. To do this the project provides an ongoing mentorship programme which pairs young boys with positive male role models in their communities, an after-school homework programme and a school-based literacy initiative.
For the adults, they host a variety of support groups that deal with issues such as sexual health, new fatherhood and paternity rights. They also have a curated online bookshop that focuses on relatable stories by Black, African, male authors.
Together with the NPO Heartlines, they host an annual Father’s Day bike ride which brings a wide community of men together, to connect, celebrate and support each other in the long term.
Through the project, Arnold wants to support fathers to raise boys who are emotionally balanced, confident communicators who can articulate their fears in a healthy way. Young men who can pursue their dreams safely in the knowledge that they have support.
You can probably tell that Arnold is also passionate about books. He gets that from his dad. DM
The Actionists was launched in early 2023 by photographer Thom Pierce. It consists of on-the-ground problem solvers, community activists, climate campaigners and human rights defenders who engage in direct action. They are people anyone can turn to in difficult circumstances: a growing community of people who care about the future of South Africa. Through a series of photographic stories, Pierce profiles these people. Through a website, discussion forum and social media, the aim is to provide ways for people to get involved.
Nominate Actionists in your circle at www.theactionists.co.za or email [email protected]
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.