Look What You've Started

A Conversation with Carlos Andrés Gómez

A Conversation with Carlos Andrés Gómez

Big Brothers Big Sisters is fortunate to have supporters through many difference avenues: donors, partners, Bigs, Littles, employees, volunteers, and board members. There are even a number of public figures that lend their voices to motivate and inspire others to get involved. This group of individuals - our Speakers Bureau - contains a two-time Super Bowl champion, a Hall of Fame basketball player, actors, musicians, and former Bigs and Littles. Recently, it received a new addition: Carlos Andrés Gómez, an award-winning writer and performer.

Gómez is the author of Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood, a memoir that he hopes will redefine masculinity for the current generation of men. While on a recent book tour, I was able to sit down with Gómez to discuss the book and his partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Big Brothers Big Sisters: First, thank you so much for joining our Speakers Bureau and for agreeing to meet with me today.

Carlos Andrés Gómez: Thank you! I’m so honored to work with Big Brothers Big Sisters; I love the work that you all do and am excited to share my experience and writing with the Big Brothers Big Sisters community.

BBBS: What does it mean to you to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters?

CAG: I feel like Big Brothers Big Sisters is the kind of organization that gives a concrete path to making a generation of better men and women. By getting involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, I wanted to form this really organic and purpose-filled partnership that - in terms of what the book is trying to do - would inspire people to act and to get involved in their community and do something that is actively impacting the younger generation of boys and girls that will become the next generation of men and women. Man Up is all about giving the younger generation permission to defy the very rigid and suffocating gender binaries that we’ve been socialized to feel that we have to follow. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentors give kids the greatest permission of all to be who they are and that’s what this book is about.

BBBS: Why do you feel it is important to spread the message of “Man Up”?

CAG: The way that I’m talking about “Man Up” is kind of with a wink. It can be positive, sometimes referring to responsibility or holding yourself accountable for decisions in your life; but I think often times men use it to egg on the most destructive male behaviors. My book aims to shift the definition of what it means to be a man. I know men that are in their 60s and 70s that are still trying to figure it all out - men who fight at the drop of a dime, who won’t say more than 2 or 3 words about anything, who won’t acknowledge that they have emotions at all, who are not advocates for women, who aren’t peacemakers. These are things that I think are important for boys to learn in order to really become men.

BBBS: Have you ever been involved in a mentoring relationship before - either in the role of mentor or mentee?

CAG: Yes, to both parts of the question. There have been different mentors in my life that I’ve been very lucky to have, whether it was short term or long term. Some came into my life at the right time for just a short time. A really powerful mentor that I had was my mom’s boyfriend, who was around for a few years. He was a great intellectual role model for me. I’ve been a mentor in a lot of different capacities: I used to be a social worker, I used to be a counselor at a camp for kids affected by HIV and AIDS, I taught at a number of schools for a wide range of ages. In terms of the kind of mentor that I WISHED I had - like a biological big brother or a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor - that was always something that I yearned for. That was a big reason why I wanted to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters because I feel like - especially for young black and Latino kids - there are TONS of positive examples out there, but they don’t get the recognition that they deserve because they’re not yelling at someone on a reality show.

BBBS: Could you speak a little about your particular writing style and how you hope it will help others?

CAG: In the book, it’s an interesting mix of things - the intros to the chapters are excerpts or monologues from the play that inspired the book. I wrote a play called “Man Up” about five years ago, so I have monologues from that play and poems to address the themes in the chapters. The chapters themselves are long-form prose. I think my style in terms of the way I write - it’s very real. It’s uncensored, vulnerable, risky and a little dangerous at times. I want people to feel something in their gut when they read things I write. I don’t want people to be passive - I want them to feel something. Another thing about my style is that I want to have horror, beauty, shame and celebration all dancing in the same room and not have that be seen as paradoxical or contradictory because I think that’s what life is.

BBBS: What is your favorite piece to perform and why?

CAG: There are a lot of pieces that I’m very connected to and that I love to perform. My favorite performance of all time was a poem called “All We Have.” It’s a piece that was inspired by Savion Glover. I saw him perform in 2003 and he did something to a room that I had never seen done before. Five years later, I performed with Savion Glover in front of 3000 people on Broadway and did that piece together. That was my favorite performance ever and it was everything I wanted to do in those three minutes.

Throughout the conversation, Gómez often referred to moments in his life that had a profound impact on him and his decision to write Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood. He was able to take those moments, learn from them, and put the lessons that he learned into words to help the next generation of men and women. You can also help the next generation of men and women. Volunteer, donate or find the method of involvement that is right for you.

Find out more about Carlos Andrés Gómez and Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood on his website.

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