Barry Cooper on young men’s mental health and the BRO Experience

Young black men and boys have a resource for mental health help: Community organizer Barry Cooper, 41, has founded the Brothers Redefining Opportunity (BRO) Experience Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on the mental health and education of young black men and boys.

“In my vision of visions, the BRO space will be a space that young men know they can get out of the home, and it’s safe, and it’s managed by them and for them,” said Cooper.

In the physical center on Marcus Garvey Blvd. 7, the BRO Experience offers comprehensive programs including conflict resolution talks, summits on cognitive behavior and empowerment, implicit bias workshops with juvenile and NYPD officers, a free six-week “Little BRO Summer Camp” that welcomes third and fourth grade boys classroom supports, literacy programs, STEM programs, and meditation and yoga classes.

Cooper often uses music and other methods to help students feel vulnerable enough to let their guard down and connect with each other.

Cooper grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and still lives in the neighborhood. He began his career as a mental health advocate when he was a hairdresser at the age of 18. “When I saw all the different ages of men, I always wondered where the safe spaces were outside of sports and the barbershop for men to go to,” said Cooper.

He has observed the neighborhood’s shift to a “multicultural” community, but feels there is a growing “charge” to arrest young men for the sake of public safety.

Barry Cooper on young men’s mental health and the BRO Experience

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