John Royston, father of 5, business coach/mentor at Centre for Mentoring and Coaching; CEO of National Coalition-Building Institute.
What made you wake up in terms of who you are as a man and a black man?
I went to a Prime Minister Diversity Challenge workshop run by NCBI at Russell Square in 2001. The question was asked ‘stand if you identify as a man?’ I was 46 and I realised that I’d never really looked at myself in this way properly before and that no one had specifically acknowledged me for my male identity.
It was incredibly important to see myself of African heritage and all the context that brings with it. However, as a man I was drifting along with that identity. At that moment, I realised what power I have as a man. And most significantly as a father and a partner. I recognised how important it was to continue being around for my children, and subsequently, when I got involved with the Criminal Justice System to realise how many of those young men in prison haven’t been fathered.
And what did doing Beyond The Hero mean to you along this journey?
I discovered what a good emotion anger is when it’s clean. That there is a difference between rage and anger but that anger expressed corrected can be the path to liberation. The great thing about rites of passage work is that it gets below the veneer of masculinity, and BTH is very much a process of pull rather than push, which means you step willingly into a place for change.
Also we as human beings all love being read stories, and this is at the core of BTH. It takes you back to childhood and who we once were. We find another type of hero within ourselves, not the male one that society so often puts forward in a macho way.
And you were instrumental in setting up London’s Beyond The Difference weekend?
Yes, abob approached me with the intention of setting up a BTH weekend, which would attract men of colour. I helped influence the thinking about the course with more of a black perspective in mind. To support the delivery US-based James McCleary also came over. I still continue to support abob with diversity consciousness.
For example on the nature walk is a tree hundreds of years old. It’s historical existence has both an African and a European historical perspective. I suggested referencing an African perspective too. The brilliant thing about abob is that they are very willing to hear and evolve.
How did you get involved in the Haringey group?
I always wanted to get more involved but was incredibly busy. I knew it was important when a London group started to be attracting men from diverse backgrounds so I helped with that. Through my contacts, we got to know about black events going on in Haringey and attended them. For example there is an organisation called Find Your Voice which had about 200 people at one of its events. We started by attracting men to care about their community and to become mentors. The young men came afterwards.
How do you see it in Haringey?
I think the potential in Haringey is huge. There are too many young men in need of mentoring and there are too many older men who don’t know what to do to help them. We are busy forming different partnerships and have plans for a number of adult programmes and of course young people programs too. We are also building relationship with other community groups such as MAC UK, Father 2 Father and on a bigger scale Tottenham Hotspur FC. And, we already have plans to take ABOB into other areas of London in 2016.