Manuel J. Fernandez has been eager to bring the “Discovering Rituals, Understanding Manhood” (D.R.U.M.) program to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
A longtime friend and supporter of COSEBOC, Mr. Fernandez is the Chief Equity Officer for the Cambridge Public Schools. He had been speaking about the program with COSEBOC Founder and Executive Director Ron Walker for several years, and when Mr. Fernandez was hired to lead the district’s Office of Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, he put the D.R.U.M. facilitator course high on his list of priorities for professional development.
Mr. Fernandez also recognized the opportunity to engage colleagues from other City of Cambridge departments in the Rites of Passage experience. He knew that the research-based program grounded in African/Indigenous rituals and hip-hop pedagogy would resonate with other men of color.
“Given the many agencies that work with young men of color in Cambridge,” said Mr. Fernandez, “I thought we might have a wider impact if we created a network of facilitators who could provide wraparound services.”
To enlist broader participation from other City departments, Mr. Fernandez partnered with Marc Saunders, Director of Operations for Cambridge Youth Programs, and Khari Milner, Co-Director of the Cambridge Agenda for Children Out of School Time Initiative. Before long, the three men had recruited staff from their own programs for the D.R.U.M. course, as well as others from the Department of Human Services and the Cambridge Housing Authority Work Force Youth Program.
On the snowy morning of February 28, 2023, a group of 20 men of color gathered to embark on the D.R.U.M. journey. The participants included middle school teachers, an elementary school clerk, college and career counselors, family and community engagement specialists, out-of-school time coordinators, and other roles from across the City of Cambridge. They are being trained to facilitate D.R.U.M. programs of their own with the boys and young men of color in their schools and programs.
Mr. Walker joined D.R.U.M. developers and facilitators Timothy Jones and Kamau Ptah to kick off the program at the Cambridge Street Upper School. Mr. Fernandez was the founding principal of the school, which has been recognized for its deep commitment to equity and anti-racism.
Mr. Fernandez added, “We are so proud to partner with COSEBOC and the community to center the needs of our youth, amplify their voices, support their capacity for success, and lift up their aspirations.”
This is one of the first times the D.R.U.M. facilitator course has been offered in-person. The Cambridge team will engage in four additional learning sessions this spring. COSEBOC now offers the course through in-person, virtual, or hybrid learning.