“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength.” Henry Ward Beecher
Fuerza is a group of young Latino men coming together and exploring what strength truly is. This group of young men strive to break down the stereotypical pairing of strength with violence and work to re-claim true strength, especially in relationships. This page will keep you up to date with this model program and aims to inspire other men to truly be strong.
The group Fuerza finds its own strength in the men who dedicate their time to these boys as role models. Latino and non-Latino men who have made choices in life to stay true to their culture and true to their values in the lives they lead. They show these boys through their own actions what it looks like to be a strong man and still feel powerful and proud of where they come from.
Frankie Coto is a Latino artist who expresses himself through multiple mediums. He came and held a workshop for FUERZA on legal graffiti. He presented to the group that graffiti is often a cultural and artistic expression for many young Latino men but it is the disrespectful and illegal use of vandalizing someone’s property without their permission that gives the art form a bad name. Frankie taught the boys that they can express themselves through this art form legally by simply requesting permission to use space and then using their art to send positive and healthy messages. Frankie then led the boys in a workshop teaching them how to work together to create a positive graffiti mural. The boys designed their own mural with their own positive messages and signatures. Then, with the help of artist Rhoda Miller, transformed their vision into a traveling mural that can be displayed with permission in public venues. They chose to depict two cultures interacting peacefully and brought together by the shared love of soccer.
This project focused on respect. Respect of other people’s property and how to ask for permission to express yourself. It also transforms graffiti, something that can be harmful and illegal into something that is beautiful and productive. The act of transformation is important to highlight as the group seeks to transform notions of masculinity and strength.
Jossimar is a young man who came from humble beginnings and overcame many obstacles to use his talents to promote peace and strength as a young Latino man through music. He is a rap artist and uses his music to send messages of strength and respect. He spoke to the young men of FUERZA about what he learned male strength to be, that of making good choices and staying out of trouble and in school so that he can have the opportunities to make a difference in his family and his community. He led the young men in a rap workshop and helped them create a rap about the positive aspects of being a Latino man. The rap they chose to write challenged them to think of what messages they wanted to send others about what true strength looks like. They rapped about listening to their parents and protecting those they love with a nonviolent and loving strength found in true men.
Tony Fajardo, who works for Rockingham Memorial Hospital as the Coordinator for Health Education and Awareness and the Latino Coalition ( Futuro Latino), has been very involved with Fuerza and another important role model for these young men. He has brought diseased organs to educate about the effects of alcohol and smoke on a body and challenged the boys to come up with their own reasons to choose healthier lifestyles. He has also provided ongoing mentoring and support as the boys struggle with various topics of growing up bi-culturally.
Tim Frost is the co-leader of Fuerza and has been a constant supporter of the young men in the group. He also runs additional after-school programming for the young men through church activities at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Tim has been integral in showing what strength looks like in a man through his own actions and life choices. He also does not shy away from difficult topics that the boys want to discuss such as dealings they have had with racism and feeling discriminated against. He processes with the boys how to handle that very real issue using a strength that is not violent.
The men of Fuerza proudly placed their handprint on a poster to show their commitment to using non-violence. We use group time to role play and problem solve various situations that might tempt a young man to use violence and then we find other ways to solve problems and still feel strong. This is real-life application and training in how to be truly strong.
The men of Fuerza write commitments of how they will show respect for others. Through a public display of commitment the group can begin to hold each other accountable to the ideas we try to practice.
Our pasts can be a part of what shapes us. Honoring our ancestors and learning from their wisdom is a topic we explore at Fuerza. Here the young men were challenged to think what they want to communicate to younger generations of Latino boys. This site is for all young men to read and learn from their older peers what true strength looks like.
Most recently, the boys worked on a peer-led campaign to empower younger middle school boys to redefine male strength by directing them to this webpage, which allows them to see what the group is doing. FUERZA is spreading a new norm for how men treat women and stand united against violence.