When you turn on the television set or scroll through your social media timelines, finding authentic and positive images of black men can feel like a fruitless endeavor.
Despite the modern backdrop of having an African-American president in the White House, black men are often depicted and presented in rather monolithic fashion. Whether it’s the notion that they are to be feared by the police or causing havoc in their communities, men of color are rarely afforded the benefit of doubt.
Recognizing this problem and a lack of space for black men to convene in the digital landscape, Jason Rosario decided to create The Lives of Men.
Launched in January, the lifestyle website offers men of color a brotherly seat at the table, with the vision of providing an inclusive and interactive community that challenges and redefines black masculinity.
“There’s a lack of resources out there for men of color. If you need advice for a breakup, for example, the type of advice you get is really unhealthy. You have the mainstream publications of the world that do not do a great job of developing well-rounded men from the inside out,” Rosario tells theGrio.com.
“There was this essence of vulnerability and authenticity that I thought was lacking. I want men to look at themselves and be OK with being in touch with their feelings and admit it to themselves that they’re not quite sure about their path in life and need help. We want to be the compass that helps men of color navigate those journeys.”
Raised in the Bronx by a single mother of five, Rosario says he quickly learned that there were some things his mom — despite efforts to make up for the absence of his father — was not able to teach him. As a young adult, Rosario says he learned how to “become a man” by observing other men of color and relied on a combination of trial and error.
It’s his hope that The Lives of Men can serve as both instruction and inspiration that will provide the tools he was never afforded growing up.
“The fact that [my father] wasn’t present taught me what I didn’t want to be. There were things I didn’t want to repeat or perpetuate,” Rosario says. “Once you get a clear idea of what you want to be, and don’t have models around that, it becomes a challenge to start to walk that path. It’s a very lonely path sometimes, because you have all the imagery of hypermasculinity and aggression.”
The Lives of Men, he says, offers readers a video-focused online experience, addressing topics like fatherhood, the effects style has on one’s self-esteem, dating and even homosexuality. The more uncomfortable and complex the topic, the better.
“Nine out of 10 publications are going to ask men about sports,” Rosario says. “We want to ask them about their journey that got them to where they are. That’s our secret sauce.”
Most of all, Rosario wants his website to be a reminder, to young black men in particular, that there are men who look like them and are successful and thriving. “There’s always an opportunity. There’s always a different path to take,” he says. “I want that young man to come to the site, feel empowered, feel inspired and feel like there’s nothing he can’t do.”