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Q&A with MEN Count Counselor Wayne Stroman

“This is what’s needed. You have men engaged in conversations of men about men for men, which probably doesn’t happen in most of these guys’ lives. Positive conversations about the ills of the world that overcome a young black man, a young incarcerated black man.”

--Wayne Stroman

MEN Count Joint-Principal Investigator, Dr. Lisa Bowleg sat down with Mr. Stroman to find out his thoughts about how the program has impacted the lives of its participants. Below is an excerpt from their interview.

What has been your role with MEN Count?

My role has been more of a mentor and advisor who teaches and trains folks to not only recognize their issues, but how to come out whole, as far as the issues are concerned. But the main concern is geared toward how those situations relate to HIV, and it’s fairly simple. It makes sense. My formal training was in the area of substance abuse, addiction, and HIV, so I’m right at home. I love it.

Give me a concrete example of how you have reached clients in the program.

Typical situation: One guy, I had the first session with him and he was in denial about his substance abuse and how it relates to HIV. I kept trying to stress, “You need help. You need to go into treatment.” I thought I had lost him. He didn’t come back for his second session, but I did follow-up. I called his number and—because he went into treatment and they collect all of the clients’ phones ‘cause they’re not allowed to use phones—his therapist in treatment picked up the phone in a desk drawer and answered it. The therapist was the program director, and we got to talking.

This gentleman went into treatment and I thought he wasn’t listening, but he went and completed treatment. I went back to the treatment center. I did the second and third sessions with him and we also contacted him for his six-month follow-up. It’s those kinds of stories.

What factors do you think contributed to these successes?

The sincerity of wanting to help. I think what’s from the heart reaches the heart, and even in the cases where I couldn’t give them housing, bus fare back and forth or that kind of thing, just giving them connection and guidance. A lot of those young men need role models. They need men who been there, men who can guide them. They’re lost. They don’t know what to do. And when someone like myself, especially when I tell them I’ve been where you’ve been, they really feel that I can help them. And I tell them, “Even though it’s been over twenty years since I’ve sat there, it’s been a journey and it’s been a struggle.”

How has MEN Count impacted the decrease in their HIV and sexual risk behaviors?

It’s very elementary. Most guys didn’t even know how to put on a condom. I ask them, “Do you use condoms?” They say, “Yeah, I use them, but they bust.” I say, “How do you put them on?” And 90 percent of the gentlemen do not know how to correctly put on a condom. So when I give that spiel, they say, “ I’m going to try it.” In the second session, I ask them about it. “Okay, yeah, it worked. You’re right.”

It’s those kinds of things. Like I ask, “Have you been to the unemployment office? Do you know they have free services and they have free training programs—a CDL (commercial driver’s license) where they can make over sixty or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year driving a tractor trailer truck? Those schools cost thousands of dollars, but you can go to the unemployment office and get into those programs for free. Did you know that, right? GED programs—did you know that?”

To what extent has MEN Count met the needs of the men that it has served?

It’s helped those who progressed a lot, but I think it has helped those who didn’t progress because even though they didn’t reach the milestones of the others, they were now aware. They weren’t as much in denial because of the information given to them.

Any other impact we haven’t talked about?

Emotional. Everyone doesn’t know how to deal with those feelings and thoughts and what to do with them, especially if you’ve been used to acting or dealing with them a certain way all of your life and all of a sudden, you have to change that. Especially for folk who have been incarcerated, it’s a whole different monster.

What are some of the reasons we should try to continue MEN Count?

This is what’s needed. You have men engaged in conversations of men about men for men, which probably doesn’t happen in most of these guys’ lives. Positive conversations about the ills of the world that overcome a young black man, a young incarcerated black man.

What sorts of things would organizations in D.C. that provide services to men need to implement a program like MEN Count within their existing services?

Savvy staff who understand the plight of the client that they’re dealing with, funding to continue to reach out to the disadvantaged, and more programs with these people in place to help them.

It’s like a father-and-son conversation, especially the son in adolescence or who thinks he’s a man but has no clue to what that means. It takes a strong person, someone who’s willing to reach out. I must be willing to take a chance, even at my own demise, to make sure that my children, my son, the next generation moves on.  And when I see a wrong, I must have the courage to right it.

Our Counselors

Our Life Coaches/Peer Counselors are Black men from the DC/Maryland/Virginia area.  These men are knowledgeable about the issues and concerns surrounding DC life and Black male identity.  Furthermore, they have access to a wide variety of community resources and as needed connect men in the MEN Count program with these resources.

 

Wayne Stroman 

Peer Counselor

Wayne has his master's degree in Counseling. He teaches anger management and is a substance abuse counselor. Wayne has been on the MEN Count project since 2013. He is interested in research on incarceration, recidivism, and substance abuse in adult Black males. Wayne enjoys dancing in his free time.

 

[email protected]

 

Kelly Odoms 

Peer Counselor

Kelly started working with the MEN Count project in December 2016. He is a Psychology student at Penn State, and will be graduating in 2018. Kelly is interested in research on African American issues and mental illness. Kelly is also an artist and is interested in media, comics, illustration and fine art.  

 

[email protected]

 

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