Advocates holding forum for Black men and boys
Jun 3, 2021
Black Lives Matter B/CS co-founder Tre Watson poses for a portrait at Bryan City Hall on Thursday, June 4, 2020.
By KENNY WILEY
Community advocates are holding a two-hour forum for Black men and boys to discuss mental health challenges, gun violence and community engagement. The discussion will take place at the Lincoln Center in College Station at 6 p.m. Friday.
Tre Watson, the 29-year-old cofounder of Black Lives Matter B-CS, said in a Wednesday interview with The Eagle that he organized the forum, formally titled “Building a Brotherhood,” on behalf of Black Lives Matter B-CS. The forum will feature six speakers and time for broader discussion.
“We need to have space to have an opportunity to have a conversation,” Watson said. “I still consider myself pretty young, and I don’t know a lot about a lot. Hopefully we have the right people who are interested in speaking and can put it all together so we can leave with a good perspective.”
Recent gun violence and ongoing conversations about mental health challenges and related stigmas served as the impetus for Friday’s event, he said.
In particular, Watson cited the May 21 double shooting in a College Station H-E-B parking lot and the May 23 police shooting of 19-year-old Roderick Merchant Jr. in College Station as examples of the need for community members to come together and engage in dialogue.
“I’m not trying to tell anyone to be pro-guns or anti-guns — I don’t think that’s my place — but I do feel like it’s our responsibility to let people know the situations that can happen with guns,” Watson said.
He said he hopes for attendance that is diverse in age, profession, perspective and ideology.
“We’re not all the same. This is a place where we can all speak,” Watson said.
Boys in seventh grade and up are welcome, he said. Watson added that he thinks it is important for Black people to talk about mental health; he said Black men, and men of every racial identity, are often discouraged from crying or otherwise showing a range of emotions.
“I feel it would have helped me [when] I was younger to have someone in [their] 20s or older to tell me, ‘Hey, dude, going to a counselor has nothing to do with being crazy. It’s just about learning how to get through what you’re dealing with,’ ” Watson said.
Another hoped-for byproduct of Friday’s forum, according to Watson, is that Black men and boys from Bryan and College Station will get to know one another better and create unity across the two cities.
This week marks one year since Watson co-organized a series of protests as a response to the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd that drew more than 1,000 people to near Downtown Bryan.
Watson said that police violence and racism are not explicit focus points for Friday’s forum.
“I want the focus to be on what we can change,” he said.
Watson added that he hopes any Black members of law enforcement entities in the area consider attending. He also said that future forums will be more identity-inclusive later in the summer.
“I want people to understand that just because we’re having an exclusive meeting doesn’t mean this meeting is about hating white people or trying to start a divide,” Watson said. “This is about having an open and comfortable conversation with people who look like me to address these issues.”
The Lincoln Center forum will conclude at about 8 p.m. Friday.