Michael Sanders, Tamayo Zhou and Elijah Merritt (left to right) pose for a portrait outside of the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center on March 7, 2021 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Brother2Brother is an organization at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for male and non-binary students of color to build a community that supports them throughout their college experience. 

Tamayo Zhou, graduate student and Brother2Brother coordinator, said Brother2Brother is a program at the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services that welcomes all male and non-binary students to build a community of support focused on enhancing the development of college students of color.

OASIS originally started the Male Initiative organization around 2016, and it was rebranded as Brother2Brother last year to be more inclusive, according to Zhou and Elijah Merritt, sophomore business administration major and president of Brother2Brother. Kevin Reese, the former program coordinator for OASIS, was the original coordinator and developer of Brother2Brother. 

Merritt said when he came to UNL, he was looking to get involved and increase his connections around campus. Merritt said he saw a poster about Brother2Brother hosting a symposium at the bowling alley on East Campus. He said he originally went because there was going to be free food.

When Merritt went to the symposium, he said he met a lot of different people he could relate to. Michael Sanders, sophomore computer science and vice president of Brother2Brother, 

said he also went to the same symposium last year and he really appreciated the discussions, which covered topics like how the education system is set up and how it affects minorities. Reese reached out to both Sanders and Merritt about being a part of Brother2Brother, according to Sanders.

“It was really impactful for me and Elijah,” Sanders said. “When Kevin Reese reached out to us and gave us an opportunity to kind of lead something that could potentially grow into something bigger, we thought that it’d be an amazing idea.”

Zhou said he wanted to be part of Brother2Brother because he felt like sometimes he did not have the connection with other students and knowledge of resources on campus as a first generation, international student of color. Zhou said many people would suggest joining a fraternity, but for him, fraternities hold a lot of expectations and commitment. 

Brother2Brother gives students freedom, and it puts an emphasis on making sure that students are successful in their experience in college, according to Zhou. Sanders said the organization has the same type of energy as a fraternity, but without the politics.

“It’s just a place for us to be with other minorities that can help us grow and develop as men, as well as whatever else we may need help and support with and, at the same time, getting experience when it comes to leadership roles that can potentially expand,” Sanders said.

Also, Brother2Brother gives a space for men of color to have difficult conversations that they might not have otherwise, like about toxic masculinity and how to be better for themselves and for other people, according to Zhou. 

Last April, Brother2Brother was going to hold a conference to be recognized on campus and raise awareness of the group, but they had to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Merritt. Although the pandemic has had an effect on the interactions within the organization, Zhou said they have been able to transition to an online platform and transition with the new leadership.

“We hope by the end of April we will be able to host our conference that was scheduled last year in April,” Zhou said.

Zhou said the organization is also planning to have a symposium in April, and they want to invite speakers and students, especially seniors, to share their experience navigating campus. 

Some events Brother2Brother has held this year include a trivia night for Black History Month on Feb. 26 and an Among Us tournament on Nov. 15, according to Zhou. 

Currently, the organization is in the process of recruiting more students, and they have opened up a few leadership internship positions, according to Zhou. 

“One of the biggest things I want to be able to accomplish is that people that come in feel welcomed and that we are able to all get through college together,” Merritt said.