Learning Vulnerability through Brotherhood

My older brother has always looked out for me. Through the years he’s played the role of teacher, life coach, doctor, stylist and even matchmaker from time to time. Granted, that has also came with a few drawbacks (being the test dummy for all the new professional wrestling moves we saw, among other little brother responsibilities) but, he has always had my back and continues to give me love and support through everything I do. When our grandmother passed some years ago, my brother was the one who stood by me and held me as I cried. Moments like this taught me the essence of vulnerability and letting others in. He taught me what it means to be a brother. It’s because of him; I’ve always held brotherhood to such a high esteem. Throughout all phases of my life I’ve been able to find individuals who share this sentiment and have impacted my life in ways I cannot begin to list. However, it didn’t come quickly for me at all.

I didn’t know it at first, but when I arrived in college, like everyone else I was searching for myself. The school I attended was much different than the Brooklyn which had shaped me. Gone was the Caribbean music my next-door neighbor’s played, that wouldn’t end until we were ready for church the next morning. I felt overwhelmed by unfamiliarity, with thousands of students all searching for a place to call home. I was lost in my own city and I felt alone. The first week was rough for me, but all throughout campus I heard rumblings and whispers of an organization, The Gentlemen of Quality (GQ), an organization which helps to support men of color throughout their college years.

When I attended the first meeting, I found a group of young men who built their own sub-community with all types of people from different backgrounds. However, most importantly, I discovered a safe space for me to be my whole self, each and everyday. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have the strength to continue grinding without having men from this group supporting and encouraging me consistently. The words of inspiration and the safe space to express myself on various topics such as relationships, challenges and fears provided a strong foundation for me to thrive. The beauty I saw in brotherhood was knowing that I am not in this world alone.

Another monumental learning experience in regards to brotherhood was joining Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, which gave me an ever deeper understanding of the concept of vulnerability. I have been able to learn more about myself through my relationships with my fraternity brothers. Although I only have one brother by birth, I am fortunate enough to now have formed fraternal bonds with a host of people. My brothers have been there for every birthday, every triumph and every shortcoming. They are the first people I call when I am in doubt and fear. Brotherhood is deeper than blood. Brotherhood is the unshaken dedication to your fellow man. It’s the strength to support one another during times of loss. It’s the joy in seeing your brother succeed and the sincerity to correct them when they’re wrong. Brotherhood simply put is unfiltered, unwavering love without judgment.

My brother's have taught me to not only be vulnerable with them but also with myself. They've shown me that it's okay to be open and honest about my feelings and to show weakness. I've learned that without this level of self-awareness and self-care, one can often become trapped and burdened down by the weight of world. This is why it is important for everyone to seek some type of safe space where they are able to express themselves openly and receive the support of those that genuinely want to see them advance in life.

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