In honor of International Men’s Day, we had the honor of interviewing Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh who is very instrumental when it comes to empowering and uniting our men. Check out the interview below.
H.O.R.: Dr. Jerome can you please go ahead and introduce yourself, tell us where you are from?
Jerome Teelucksingh: Hi, I am Jerome Teelucksingh. I am a lecturer in the History Department at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean, which is located near Venezuela. In addition to academia, I am involved in some activism that deals with the Men’s Movement.
H.O.R.: I have read about some of the things that you are doing regarding the Men’s Movement, it is very important nowadays for men to be in solidarity with one another and to have this platform where they can be celebrated. Fathers and men in general, do not receive a lot of credit and it is important that we pay attention to that. We come from both women and men and as much I like to support women, it is just as important that we support our men too.
Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Jerome Teelucksingh: In November, almost 20 years ago, I felt that there was a need for a special day to focus on the contributions of men. I felt that we need to take a look at positive male role models, and I noticed that in the media there was a lot of stereotyping directed at men. I recognized that we have International Women’s Day, where there is a lot of focus on the woman and I felt that there was a need do the same for men. I chose November 19th because it is my father’s birthday, and he is a role model for me and the rest of my family.
It is also a day when my country played the United States soccer team in the finals and you all beat us 1- 0. In the build up to that game, there was a lot of unity and solidarity between men and women, all across ethnic, gender, class, and geographical divide and that was the motivation behind selecting this specific day and month.
H.O.R.: It is a beautiful thing when we are all able to come together, typically there is food, and music but also, there is sports, and we forget who we are next to. We are looking at human beings celebrating when we look to our left and to our right, we are celebrating unity and that is very important, especially during today’s times. I see that November 19th holds a very special place in your heart.
Jerome Teelucksingh: I should also mention that this year, I saw the need to create International Men’s Day as a way to be more involved in the United States because I was very sad to witness the murder of George Floyd by another man and something within me clicked because I have a 7 year-old daughter just like George Floyd did and then I saw all of the protests and I realized that it is only when men are united that we are able to move forward so that we can deal with some of the gender issues, race issues and religious problems. I was deeply touched as were millions of people around the world.
H.O.R.: I agree with you.
Jerome Teelucksingh: It is not just that but as you know, it is election time in the United States, and in the Caribbean as well as in the rest of the world, politics has a tendency to divide and rule and I see some of our men that are divided among blue states and red states in their ideology and the message that I would like to send to Americans and the rest of the world, is that we need to put aside our differences and to not allow politics, religion, class, and ideology to divide us.
H.O.R.: You are right. As we mentioned before setting aside a day for men is so very important because at the end of the day, as you have said, it does not matter what class you are in, your age or your race…you have a lot in common with your neighbor and that is what is important. I think that when people begin to realize that not only am I a part of this particular group because of gender or ethnicity, we are able to see that you are a man, I am man, and we think alike and we deal with the same things in life, we have children, families and hobbies, common interests.
If people can see that we are all human, I believe that we will be able to find solutions for the problems that we face. So, when I heard about your movement, I was so moved that I wanted to speak with you, I needed to know about Dr. Jerome, the man who started this movement. If this would have been talked about 20 years ago with that much strength and power, here in the United States, who knows where this world could be. but we are living right now, so what can we do right now and with all this political polarization, people are being pulled to the left and to the right. We are all human and it is okay that we have different points of view or that we may see things from a different perspective our common denominator is that we are human.
You mentioned before that women are always celebrated, and it took a long time for us to get there because society did not respect our voice and it went unheard. So now that we are here and being heard, we are taking over (she laughs) so now we need to provide a place for the men to be celebrated. I appreciate what you have been doing for so long and it is time that we Americans start realizing that we are all human. It is interesting to see how the rest of the world is paying attention to everything that is going on with us in our neighborhoods and it is being broadcasted and in today’s world with electronic devices right our fingertips, the world is now able to see everything that happens.
Everyone has an opinion or a perspective about what is going on with us, but it is not the same as when you are living in these streets, experiencing these things that they see. But now the world gets to see a little of what we deal with. I think that the fact that it is not hidden anymore is a beautiful thing. Unity is very important, and people need to come together. I think that your International Men’s Day is a beautiful gesture, and it is breaking down barriers and bringing us closer together.
Jerome Teelucksingh: I should mention that we have coordinated International Men’s Day in Central and South America, Africa, Australia and India and there are times where I spend my mornings on Google translate trying to speak their language, trying to understand them and you would be surprised that despite cultural differences, there is a common thread, a sense of unity, they are so glad that globally this movement is gaining traction. Men in India and China are experiencing problems that we all face, and I think Covid-19 has emphasized how fragile human life really is, how short it is and the need for us to not hold onto grudges, to not be bitter.
So, I think that there is an important lesson to learn from this pandemic and that is the need to appreciate and value human life and not to see oneself as superior or inferior.
H.O.R.: I think that is what we have been missing for so long. We were all made the same. I tell people all the time that if I cut myself and you cut yourself, we both bleed red blood. We have been created from the same components and it is beautiful to see that more and more people all across the world are tuning in to see that there is a platform for men to be celebrated and to speak freely. It is difficult to see sometimes but there is an opportunity for unity even though we have become so divided. But when you are able to see the possibility of unity firsthand, it gives you hope that things will change. We need to stick together and end the division that exist between us all.
Jerome Teelucksingh: But one of the major problems that I face is that the Men’s Movement is a broad spectrum, so we deal with masculinities, there is not just one model of what it means to be a man or male. There may be men in the movement who are radical, some might be conservative, there are rights activists who may see women as the enemy, and I guess that all movements deal with socialism, Marxism and communism, there are extremes and it is tough to pull this all together, with any movement it is a challenge.
H.O.R.: There is always going to be a challenge in any type of movement that you have but the fact that you have the support, you have people who are tuning in who are open to the talk and that effort is headed in the right direction. You continue to persevere, and you do not allow anything to stop you and I think that it is very commendable. In 2020, we have had to see what we are good at so that we can evolve into a better person because time and time again we are seeing that the corporations are not really valuing us as human beings and to them we are disposable and then the next thing you know, we are sitting at home with a bunch of unpaid bills. This is the year where we start waking up, it is the year of enlightenment, understanding that we have to start something for ourselves and the fact that you are persevering is giving us a push towards whatever our dreams and goals are, keep pushing because it is going to work out.
The same is true of this movement, there is going to be some type of opposition, but you do not give up and that is big!
Jerome Teelucksingh: I think that one of the problems that I always face is that sometimes men do not want to take care of their health and you may consider it machismo, a macho male. Men do not want to believe that they are vulnerable, they are not invincible…they think that they are indestructible. Physically they are strong and dominant, but they will not check for Diabetes, Hypertension, High Cholesterol, Prostate Cancer and this is one of the messages that I always try to get out there is that men need to take care of their mental, physical and emotional health, creating a holistic man is so important.
H.O.R.: It is very important that there is someone who is talking about that. More and more men, especially in the Spanish community and I speak as a Latin woman, we see it so often where are men are like…I am fine! Sometimes they are not fine and they need to know that it is okay to speak about how you are feeling so that the necessary steps can be taken to get over and deal with the things that drastically impacted your life or even those things that slightly affected you and it is okay to open up about it, emotionally speaking. Physically speaking, again…I am fine but then they have a cough that have been hanging around…go to the doctor because there is nothing wrong with that (they both laugh). Robitussin does not help everything!
Speaking as a woman, it is important to be balance in taking care of your overall health; emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, you have to be in alignment. These things are important to talk about and it is great that there is a platform that enables you to. Being vulnerable is not a bad thing because when you actually talk about it and deal with it that is a demonstration of strength.
Jerome Teelucksingh: As you may know, 50 years ago, 100 years ago, someone who had issues with their mental health would be called crazy or mad and put into a mental institution but today we have medication and mental health professionals such as, Psychiatrists and Psychologists so that someone who is suffering from a Mood disorder like depression or some other mental disorder such as someone who is on the autism spectrum, will be able to get help and support. We hear about celebrities that are dealing with Bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression which is characterized by periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated mood that last from days to weeks each).
It is more common these days to see advertisements for medications for mental illness on television, it is becoming more acceptable in our society as we continue to bring awareness and de-stigmatize mental illness so that you are not looked at as crazy, or a goof
H.O.R.: …or weak.
Jerome Teelucksingh: It is that vulnerability that you talk about. I think that it is very important to not keep that bottled up. I have seen men who do not cry at their parents funerals or even their siblings because they feel that crying is a sign of weakness.
H.O.R.: It is a big deal, especially in the Spanish community. I was just discussing this with my sister Nefertiti, in the Spanish community, we see more and more that our younger generations are pushing that new wave to be open and to speak more about your mental health challenges and it could extend from childhood trauma to any number of problems that you may have. Some are greater than others and some require more attention from mental health professionals or medicinally speaking and there is nothing wrong with taking the holistic approach, I am all about that but when you understand that you are in need of a doctor, go for it. Nobody can help you until you are able to recognize that you need help.
More of us are opening up and not just us but once we start talking to the older generations, they are like are you crazy, what is wrong with you. But as more people see us healing and see us enduring the process and taking those steps towards therapy for whatever it is that you are going through and they see that you are evolving as a person, then they become more receptive of what that looks like. I do not think that them being open and receptive was ever an idea back in the day, I do not think that they understand what it looks like to be happy and healthy. So now that they see us being happy and healthy then they feel more positive about it.
Jerome Teelucksingh: I think that one of the things that I have learned from history because one of my courses that I teach deals with the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas, and I also look at Natives, who are also referred to as the first people or first nations. These were really superb, majestic civilizations where they did not have unemployment, racism, the hate…the discrimination that we face in our so-called advance societies and these were empires that used natural ingredients, they respected the environment, they did not have pollution as we have today. I think that we need to go back into the past…we may have to return to the past not physically but to find out how they managed governance, how did they deal with these vast empires with a lack of communication, a lack of social media.
It is amazing stuff Leslie, I mean I have studied, and I am surprised that the Spanish, and the Europeans came in and destroyed these empires, and we need to look back and learn the good aspects from these great empires.
H.O.R.: I would agree, they were sophisticated in their own way, in that time and they were able to not only manage their own but also maintain peace with their neighbors. You are right we do need to look into how they went about it. They were very much into nature and their spiritual being, the higher spirit. We are all connected in spirit, believe it or not. We have energy inside of us and when you are aligned with that, you start to see life differently. Because you no longer see yourself greater than everything and you understand that you are a part of a group and when we start to see that we are a part of a collective, we start to respect one another, treating each other with love and compassion. Of course we are business minded individuals and at the end of the day, we are animals, we just have a higher capacity in our brains to invent electronics and cars and build structures but despite this, we are all animals, we act like animals, we eat, we breathe and sleep just like any other animal, we may be a little smarter but we are the same and when we are able to see that I think that we will be able to defeat the divisiveness between us. Unity is definitely needed these days.
Jerome Teelucksingh: It is interesting that you mentioned animals because even with history as my field, I read outside my field, of course and I have been trying to find out as it effects both men and women, the issue of infidelity…adultery. You would be surprised that evolutionary psychology, the neurosurgeons, they have examined the brain and they believe that it might be part of our behavior from evolutionary times. So it is interesting that you mentioned animals because they compare animals, locked into monogamy, monogamy being ideal in this society and we wonder why people do this. Some men do it as a sign of status, having women outside of their relationships, the more women that you have, the more that you are respected in your community or neighborhood.
So, it is interesting that you mentioned animals because I was trying to find out the origins, the causes for infidelity. What causes us to cheat? Because when we do that, we cause the other person emotional pain which leads to divorce and separation, children are involved, it becomes a lengthy court case. There are times when we commit murder, which is an act of vengeance…so many crimes are committed, and it is something that is very interesting, are we really still at that evolutionary stage.
H.O.R.: That is interesting, I would say (as she laughs) when you find out you let me know (they both laugh).
Jerome Teelucksingh: It is so difficult (still laughing). So I am just trying to find a reason, it may be cultural or social. Sometimes we see it in movies, and it becomes part of our psyche and mindset, if our Hollywood stars can do it or somebody in the soap operas, then why not make it a part of our lifestyle. But it is very interesting because animals do not practice monogamy and I just wonder if we are still trapped in that stage.
H.O.R.: It does cause a lot of pain and there are all these negative effects to that one action or even multiple actions. To know that there are doctors who are studying it, means that there has to be a reason, an answer to this question and we are all made up differently with our ideas and who we are as an individual but after it is all said and done, we are animals and we do the exact same thing.
So there has to be a reason and when you find out, you let me know (they both laugh).
Jerome Teelucksingh: I will, and it might win me a Noble Prize maybe.
H.O.R.: But with all that, I will say that the movement that you have been working on for 20 years and we will continue hold on and help you build upon the work that you are doing, especially here in America, I want to say that I do respect all men but it is not easy. As a young lady that comes from a man who used to be very macho (he is not any longer) it is interesting to see now as a grown woman with children, I understand partially the weight that a man carries on his shoulders, especially back in the day but now woman work too, but I understand the weight that they carry to provide for their families. Society places a huge responsibility on the shoulders of men, and I appreciate all movements, including your own that uplift men.
Shoutout to all my Black and Hispanic men out there because they hold more weight on their shoulders because of the barriers that society has placed on men of color. So, I definitely want to shoutout all men of color all around the world. We are all in this together and I think that we need to uplift men whenever we get the opportunity to, men or women, whether we know you or not. If you see a man out in the street, nod at him, acknowledge him…small gestures that show appreciation can go a long way. The appreciation for our men is something that we should do all year long, not just in November.
Jerome Teelucksingh: Leslie, I also wanted to mention that I have been reaching out to men who are incarcerated, there are some prisoners in Philadelphia and New York that I communicate with through letters because we know that they do not have access to social media. So I have written letters to some of these men, sort of like a pen pal, and we are having a small virtual conference on November 19th and we will be reading some of their letters. I want to tell America that there is a need for prison reform and we know that you and your followers know about racial profiling, and this is what my Men’s Movement also want to deconstruct, we want to change that narrative where we tend to believe that our prisons are for a certain community, a certain class or ethnicity. We want to reach out to those people who are incarcerated, and we want them to know that we know that they can change their lives.
You know figures like Malcolm X who went to prison and came out a better person. We also know that there are many innocent people in prison because of the same racial profiling. So my movement is reaching out to prisoners around the world to tell them to have hope and that they should try to become role models in prison.
H.O.R.: Okay Jerome, I want to say that I am having an emotional response over here and it is okay because I love to express myself, wow that took me a little bit by surprise. First of all, I would like to say thank you for that and I also want to express why I feel this way. I feel so deeply concerned about all inmates because I have 2 brothers and one of my brothers is actually serving a life sentence in prison for something that he did not do, he fit the description and he was at the wrong place at the wrong time and now as an innocent man, he is serving time for something that he did not do.
I am in the process of starting a movement for incarcerated men, I am starting a Podcast where I interview incarcerated men, where we speak about their situation on a light basis but we are also opening up the doors because this is not a conversation that people are having and a huge number of our men are being incarcerated at a rapid rate and it is not talked about and nothing is being done to encourage them while they are in there. As a sibling of someone that has been and is currently incarcerated, I want to say that I am very proud of my brother. He got his GED since he has been in there, he went to prison before he was able to graduate from high school. So he received his GED, and he was the valedictorian of his class (Jerome extends his congratulations) and while we were having the luncheon after his graduation, he was recruited for bee keeping, computer science (to build computers) and to mentor others as they pursue obtaining their GED and he has done all of those and some other programs that the prison has offered him. He just continues to excel while he is in there.
When you mentioned that there is an opportunity for people to grow and to change, I am fully backing that statement. I have seen it firsthand through my brother, regardless of what situation that he is living in there, which is not the best…definitely not the best, that is not something for anybody to go through, he has excelled and achieve everything that he has put his mind to, he has surpassed every expectation. I am very proud of him as well as some other individuals that I have encountered dealing with my brother and his incredible project that he has excelled in and I am very much in favor of helping inmates. At the end of the day as we were just talking about, they are human too.
It is a big deal that they have someone on the outside like yourself, myself, and many others encouraging them by letting them know that they can do it. Despite the fact that they are in there, they can do whatever they set their mind to do and there is someone on the outside who cares about them. I would like to thank you for that.
Jerome Teelucksingh: I want you to tell your brother about International Men’s Day and tell him that he is a role model for those who are inside and out. Because sometimes, those who are outside of the prisons, they do not take those opportunities in life until it is too late and sometimes, they take it for granted. I really admire your brother tell him that I would like to communicate with him through letters and I really want to give him that extra push and encouragement. He is really an inspiration and I think that I could really use him as an example.
H.O.R.: Thank you for that and I will go ahead and put you in contact with my brother. It is very important that more and more humans are listening to what the problems are within our communities and incarceration is a big deal and it is a topic that needs to be talked about and must be talked about.
Jerome Teelucksingh: I totally agree with you Leslie and what is unfortunate is that in many countries it has become politicized. It is only spoken about politically and then the country gets shocked when they hear the statistics and that should not be, it needs to be on the agenda at the forefront on a daily basis.
H.O.R.: I agree, thank you so much, everything that you are doing is without a doubt very encouraging and very commendable. Continue with your great efforts to change the world because this is not just something for Trinidad, but it is for the entire world. It is changing and it is a positive direction that we are headed in and I want to thank you.
Jerome Teelucksingh: I want to thank you for having me here today.
H.O.R.: So, before we go because you already know how House of Ramirez gets down, where can we find you on Instagram, Facebook…I did see your website. So where can our viewers and followers find you?
Jerome Teelucksingh: I do not know it off hand, but I will send you my information or people can always google me, and they will find all of my contact information there. I am easily accessible and always willing to speak to people. I try to understand how humans think and how we can help each other. We really need to reach out to others because you never know when we will need help from others.
H.O.R.: I agree with you completely. Are there any shoutouts that you would like to give?
Jerome Teelucksingh: I just want to shoutout those women who are supporting their sons, brothers, fathers…like yourself and your viewers and the single mothers out there that have to play a dual role. The mother’s who take their sons to baseball and teach them fish and to play basketball, football, and other sports. These are mothers that have such a difficult time and who may feel like they do not want to get married again because I am raising my sons and daughters.
So, I want to shoutout not only the men but the women as well who are supporting our men everyday and work along side them and those single mothers who play such a vital role raising our next generation of men.
H.O.R.: I would like to thank you for that statement because I am pro women and men. This conversation was to highlight men at no point did I discuss much of what it is that we go through but it is not easy, and I want to thank you.
Jerome Teelucksingh: Thank you very much again for having me and I would like to wish all of your listeners all the best for the upcoming holiday season.
H.O.R.: Thank you so much Dr. Jerome we are going to keep in touch, please take a lot of pictures when you have your event. Also, digitally please send me all of the information about the event so that our listeners and viewers can tune in and see everything that is going on. I think that it is important that we continue to support you in your great efforts that you have going on to encourage our men.
Jerome Teelucksingh: I also want to tell you that the coordinator for the United States is a female, so I do not just have men coordinating but for the last 10 years women have been involved with coordinating our events as well.
H.O.R.: I love that, and it is important that we come together and present a united front as we do this important work. it does not take away from women to support and encourage men and so that it beautiful to hear.
Jerome Teelucksingh: I believe in equity and equality and I try to achieve that.
H.O.R.: Thank you so much.