Re-defining Masculinity with EmpowerMENt, hip-hop and critical thinking

Jasmine Martinez, News Editor

EmpowerMENt, a joint effort between English professor Damon Cagnolatti and Title IX coordinator Valyncia Raphael, will focus on leadership and consciousness for Cerritos students that identify as men.

Some questions the program hopes to answer is what masculinity means to the academic journeys of students who are men and what masculinity looks like outside of toxic masculinity.

The initiative will incorporate elements of hip-hop, with the first screening, “Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” on Sept. 18.

According to Cagnolatti, it is problematic when people passively consume hip-hop and do not see it as more as a form of entertainment.

He said this form of thinking relegates people and lived experiences to sound bytes and fragments of history, rather than dealing with the person as a whole.

With hip-hop themes, Cagnolatti hopes to, “Spark a conversation that can incur dialogue [and] critical thinking” around constructions of notions of masculinity with a masculine perspective.

He admits that this does not mean all hip-hop is good.

Addressing toxic masculinity within the program, he hopes workshops will help unpack and explain issues that surround the toxic patriarchy.

Cagnolatti wants the program to teach men to not be bystanders with issues of sexual and domestic violence, to be proactive and take initiative, in familial, social and academic spaces.

Also, EmpowerMENt will focus on training men on how to hold each other accountable in terms of language and actions.


On Raphael’s contribution, Cagnolatti said, “Where do [I] start? She’s been crucial, salvation to the efforts of EmpowerMENt.”

“She is how this stuff happened,” Cagnolatti finished.

He said students wanted to take action on issues faced on campus, but did not know which measures to take.

Cagnolatti reached out to the Cerritos College Human Resources office for support in getting men to attend the African American Male Education Network and Development.

A2Mend offers resources for African American males said Cagnolatti.

The conference gave them structure and institutional and anecdotal goals.

Cagnolatti admits that people may feel hesitation with empowering men because of the assumption of men already having power, but also highlights struggles of young men of color.

The rope course kick-off event takes place Aug. 31 at Campfire Angeles in Long Beach.