Poet/Actor Challenges Stereotypes Through “Man Up”

Carlos Andrés Gómez, an award-winning poet, actor and author, presented a spellbinding performance of “Man Up,” explaining how aggression and closing off the “emotional self “dominates everything males are taught about being a man in today’s society.

Presented yesterday at Rhode Island College’s Adams Library as part of the Adams Library Lecture Series, in collaboration with RIC RIsing (a week-long series of events to raise awareness of violence against women), the event opened with purple ribbons passed around to protest sexual violence and assault against women.

Gómez, who is the son of Gale Goodwin Gomez, RIC professor of anthropology, said he, like many men in our society, grew up believing that he had to be macho, ready to fight at all times, treat women as objects and close off his emotional self.

But a life-changing event occurred, he said, when he was on the brink of a fight with a man in a club. Gomez said he was nose-to-nose with the man when his eyes welled with tears. All the other men at the scene jumped back at the sight of his tears, including the man he was about to fight, as if crying, or showing vulnerability, was the most insane thing he could have done.

Gómez said, “I committed myself, as an artist, to try and rewrite and reimagine the way that men are allowed to be men. And hopefully, through telling my narrative, to empower people across the gender and sexuality spectrum to embrace who they are.”

Based on his presentation of the same title, Gómez’s first book “Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood,” redefines masculinity for males in the 21st century.

Gómez said young males in our society are at a crisis point. “Out of all mass shootings carried out in the United States, only one was carried out by a woman,” he said. “What does that say about men? How does not being allowed to be emotional play into our acting out violently?” Gómez hopes to reverse the trends by sharing the lessons he has learned.

Gomez answered questions and signed copies of his book following his performance. An encore performance and book signing was held last night as part of the RIC Rising program.

RIC RIsing is part of a global movement called One Billion Rising – a worldwide protest against sexual and domestic violence. Two hundred countries are represented and millions of people are participating.

“Rhode Island College’s events, in particular, have been the most comprehensive in the state,” according to Mary Baker, coordinator of RIC RIsing. “It has united the college with organizations in the local community, including the Blackstone Advocacy Center, SOAR, Planned Parenthood and Sojourner House.”

Carlos Andrés Gómez was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and named Artist of the Year at the 2009 Promoting Outstanding Writers Awards, he costarred in Spike Lee’s #1 movie “Inside Man” with Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen and appeared in the sixth season of HBO’s “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.” He has headlined festivals all over the world, including South Africa, Ireland, Spain, Canada, the U.K., and, most recently, as guest of honor at the Berlin International Literature Festival in Germany.

A former social worker and inner-city public school teacher, he grew up the child of a United Nations’ diplomat and indigenous rights advocate – moving 12 times before graduating high school, while living in four countries. He has lectured and performed at more than 200 colleges and universities, given a dozen keynote addresses and facilitated countless workshops.