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Turning the Tides for Men of Color by Noah Pagella

The Men Of Color Success Initiative (MOCSI) recently had their final meeting of the fall semester on December 7th. This was a significant day for the group, because it was the all important Rites Of Passage Ceremony.

MOCSI was designed to be able to help male identifying students of color graduate in higher numbers, and be able to retain them in order to be able to graduate them.

MOCSI meetings typically are led and hosted by Enrique Noguera, PCCC’s Assistant Dean of the Educational Opportunity Fund and MOCSI. These meetings would happen every Thursday at one pm, in the Hamilton club.

Noguera said, “Statistically men of color are the lowest performing subset when it comes to graduation and retention outcomes, so were trying to turn the tides when it comes to those statistics.”

This meeting was a significant event for the Initiative seeing the college's president Dr. Steven Rose, who also happened to kick off the event with a speech. Rose detailed the significance of the history of the Hamilton club, describing it as an “all white gentlemen's club,” explaining how important it was that MOCSI is able to be held in a space that used to be exclusive to white men.

After Rose’s impactful speech the floor was given back to Noguera who then introduced the meeting's official host for the day, Isaac Belgrave. Belgrave hosting the event was a meaningful show to members, as he was a former PCCC student as well as member of MOCSI, therefore, being living proof that the program works for its students.

Belgrave made it a great point that he and MOCSI were there to “Leave the door open for the next generation." He explained that the initiative helps its members, but also looks for them to give back to others what they have received.

After his opening speech Belgrave invited the President of the Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce, Orlando Cruz. Cruz was raised in Paterson and is the first ever Latino/minority to ever hold his current position, thus, further showing MOCSI members what is possible.

Afterwards, Belgrave was put back on the stand; he told a story about stone gumbo, in which a whole town comes together to make this gumbo by all helping so that everyone can be fed. Furthermore he explained the importance of MOCSI and the importance of helping one another, stating “Great things are almost never achieved in isolation.”

Belgrave gave his closing remarks then it was time for the Rites of Passage ceremony, an event where the hard working students of the program were acknowledged. One by one Mentors were called up to present their mentees with gift bags that held a stone, calling back to the stone gumbo story. The stone signifies sticking together and that together everyone can be fed.

Regarding the ceremony Noguera said, “When it comes to being a male of color, depending on where you're from, some cultures and ethnicities have events where you transition from boyhood to manhood, but many don’t. What we’ve done is create a program focused on mentorship; we’ve been able to create the Rites of Passage ceremony, the ceremony signifies belonging. The first phase is believing, focusing on mentoring conversation and interacting, what it means to be a man. The second phase is about brotherhood, what does it mean to call someone my brother, what are our responsibilities to hold each other accountable. The third phase is about fatherhood; we talked about challenges associated with connecting with our fathers. Many of us don’t have great relationships with our fathers.”

He also stressed the importance of keeping students of color on the right track, stating “One of the challenges of being a man of color, specifically black males is that one in three black men are incarcerated, or will likely be incarcerated, as well as one in six Latinos. This is really about being able to talk about working from a place of strength, and how do we build strength despite all these challenges that these groups are facing.”

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