In an attempt to change the conversation around masculinity, Men@Nebraska hosts an annual conference surrounding the topic with a new keynote speaker each year who compliments the theme.
Men@Nebraska is an organization that aims to improve all elements of men's lives by showing men in masculine studies and overlapping fields.
As an award-winning writer of the 2018 CantoMundo Poetry Prize for his book “Teeth Never Sleep” and co-founder of Gente Organizada, Ángel García will speak about masculinity for “Reimagining Masculinity,” a conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on April 1 in the Nebraska Union.
The Daily Nebraskan spoke with García prior to the conference, discussing his background, the masculine influences in his life and his goals for the conference.
The Daily Nebraskan: Can you describe the process behind your book, “Teeth Never Sleep?”
García: I graduated from my MFA program in 2012 with a very rough thesis. Over the years, I had continued to work on it: revising poems, taking poems out, writing new poems. The more and more I worked on the poems, the fewer and fewer pieces were left in the manuscript. At UNL, working with Kwame Dawes, who gave me wonderful feedback and pushed me to revise more, I had changed so much of what used to be a thesis, to the point of only one or two original poems making it into the book. Some of the poems, many of the poems, were the most difficult to write. But those poems shaped the direction of the book, and once I had made that decision to include them, to talk about my violent past, I became more confident and resolute.
DN: What do you plan to speak about at the Men@Nebraska conference?
AG: Based on the title of the conference and working with other wonderful folks on a Masculinity Panel at Indigo Bridge, my goal is to speak about the important need for men, all kinds of men, to reexamine and reimagine the ways in which we perform masculinity. As a poet, as a creative writer, so much imagination is needed for my work on the page. But I am a person in the real world, and if we applied some of the ways in which art makes us, potentially, more human, I want to talk about where that imagination can be honed and refined to make multiple masculinities.
DN: Can you talk about the organization you co-founded, Gente Organizada?
AG: I co-founded Gente Organizada with a colleague and buddy because we felt it was important and necessary to have communities, particularly communities of color, advocate for themselves. Our approach, though, and what makes us distinct is that we are doing community organizing cross-generationally. The mission statement of the organization is Gente Organizada brings together generations — youth and adults — to access, build and wield power in order to achieve educational, economic and social justice in our communities.
DN: As an award-winning writer and child of immigrant parents, how do you interpret masculinity?
AG: I was recently having a conversation with a homegirl, and I said, as I have always said, that this is a lifetime of work. I've had to do a lot of unpacking. I have had to make many apologies. I have had to be vulnerable, in the face of privilege, when it makes me highly uncomfortable. My suffering is not above or worse than anyone else's and the time came for me when I had to ask myself, as a man, did I want to continue to be the problem, or be part of the solution?
DN: Why do you think it is important for people to attend the conference?
AG: While this may seem like a "bad time" for men, it's important that we recognize that the issues being brought to our attention by the #MeToo movement have always been around. Patriarchy is nothing new. Violence is nothing new. But what is new, in relation to feminism, is that more and more men are joining in conversations about how toxic masculinity is harmful, to both those we love and ourselves. Men, particularly young men, have to be involved in these conversations. And more importantly, enact the new versions of masculinity that they find important.