Changing the Narrative

Paul Forbes, Defining US Advisory Board and Leaders Network

This past summer, as the discussion around CRT (Critical Race Theory) ramped up across the country, the words of novelist and activist, James Baldwin came rushing back to me, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” As a Black man who was born and raised in New York City and worked for 24 years in the NYC Department of Education directing diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, I know firsthand, how true Baldwin’s words are. I know personally the impact of negative narrative and stereotypes about Black and Latino boys and young men.

We are often referred to as, “lazy”, “violent”, “aggressive”, “thugs”, and “hyper-sexual”. As a Black man who identified as none of those things, I knew how important it would be to blunt and mitigate these stereotypes with counter-narratives. My parents are from the West Indies and from them, I learned about the power of storytelling. I decided early in my work that storytelling would play a pivotal role. My goal was to change hearts and minds by telling my story and the stories of the thousands of young men that I was blessed to work with and support.