The founder of a group where Black men can meet and discuss health and wellness says he hopes an upcoming event offers a safe space for Black men to talk about these issues and more.

Jude Clyke is the organizer behind the Black Men’s Wellness Group, which is hosting a meeting Saturday, Nov. 5 at 1pm in the Unity Room of the Colchester-East Hants Public Library.

Clyke said the focal point of the meetings is to create awareness about Black men and mental health.

“We as a community and we as Black men have unique issues and concerns that we need to struggle through and I want to create a safe space where people feel comfortable having those discussions,” Clyke said.

Awareness of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and awareness of the things that are going on around you. In a general sense, that’s kind of how I define it.”

The monthly meetings, Clyke said, started just over a year ago and have been attended by Black men ranging in age from high school students to seniors, as well as fathers and their sons. The meetings are open to all Black men. 

“It’s provided an opportunity for men to express themselves around some issues that we don’t normally get the chance to discuss,” Clyke said.

Though he said attendance has dropped the last few meetings, Clyke said he hopes this Saturday’s meeting will help continue important discussions among Black men about self-awareness and mental health.

“If we’re talking about coping, if we’re talking about resilience, if we’re talking about decision making, and what makes you happy. How do you find peace? How do you strive for more? What are your goals for the year?” said Clyke. “These types of questions require a little bit of self-reflection and allow the people who are listening to gain experience.”

“A lot of the guys in our community are struggling. And just getting out of the house and being in a space where some of them don’t talk, but just come to listen, provides some real benefit.”

Personal experiences influenced the new group

Fifteen years ago, Clyke said he was part of a group of Black men in the Truro area known as Community Strong, which like the Black Men’s Wellness Group, met to discuss different issues Black men face.

The group went on to organize several community events throughout Truro for over a decade before eventually disbanding during the COVID pandemic.

It started, he said, as “a group of Black police officers, correctional officers, and correctional staff who just started connecting with younger Black youth.”

The Black Men’s Wellness Group meetings, Clyke said, are essentially a new iteration of Community Strong.

Clyke said his own experiences help influence his approach to the new group.

A former smoker, five years ago Clyke was misdiagnosed with stage four lung cancer and thought he was going to die.

Last year he wrote about the experience and medical complications several of his immediate family members were going through at the time in a series of blog posts. He continues to write about his personal development journey and life experiences in that blog.

These experiences, he said, play a role in what he brings to the Black Men’s Wellness Group.

“I would have to say that my experience has influenced the direction [the new group] has taken. Because that experience has shaped and changed me in a significant way. And I didn’t realize how much it was changing me until, I guess, you reflect,” said Clyke.

“I read a story somebody was sharing about bamboo and the fact that for the first four years there is no growth after you plant a seed. And in the fifth year, in six months I believe, it can grow up to 90 feet.”

“In that same kind of way, I believe that experience planted some seeds that are now coming to fruition because from that day onward my life changed in terms of the way that I lived, the things that I valued, what I ate. Everything.”

‘I just want to share where I’m at’

Clyke said he’s been trying to invest a lot of time in understanding mindfulness and creating practices that provide relief, joy, and peace from “that internal critic we all have.”

“I just want to share where I’m at, and maybe gain some tips and ideas and strategies that other people are using to provide them with relief,” said Clyke.

“I want to simplify it. I don’t want it to be intimidating or pretentious. This is a tool that everybody should be utilizing to manage life.”

Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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