Joel Pollock, owner of Panther Coffee, says, “The world is a better place when we are gentle and kind towards women.”
Pollock is one of 12 men featured in "Dade Men," a photo exhibition created by the Millennials Project. Its first series highlights prominent Miami men in order to raise awareness on issues of domestic violence, increase collaboration in the South Florida community on such issues, and make Miami safer for women and girls — all of which align with the nonprofit's mission.
"It is basically photos of 12 Miami men who are influential and recognizable in the community and are quoted on why gender empowerment and lessening domestic violence is important," explains Rebecca Mantel, director of programs and community relations for the Millennials Project. "It ranges from men saying they're their daughters' first male role model to a police commissioner saying he's answered countless domestic violence calls, and it's a serious problem that needs to be highlighted in more conversations."
Rather than solely empowering women, "Dade Men" attacks the problem at its root: community and cultural conceptions that associate masculinity with violence. The photos, taken by professional Miami photographer Kasia Kozaczyk Batista, feature men who have dedicated themselves either personally or professionally to empowering women and girls by ending gendered violence.
"A masculine man doesn't need to be violent," continues Mantel. "But if they grow up in a community with men being violent, and associate that with initializing themselves into manhood, it's bad for everyone. It puts men in a small box that they can't escape from and it makes women very vulnerable."
The Millennials Project wants to mobilize 25,000 men in the next year as supporters and allies in the movement to reduce violence against women. "[The topic] is not something usually shared or publicized unless there is a specific event. We want to make it something that's not taboo to talk about by having people who are recognizable and trustworthy talking about the issue that usually goes swept under the rug."
According to the Millennials Project, Miami-Dade County has the highest number of recorded cases of domestic violence in all of Florida. The Miami Herald reported 25,000 cases of domestic violence had been documented in the county in the past five years. In 2014 alone, there were 9,811 cases of domestic violence.
"We don't talk about these issues even though they're so pervasive," she says. "These conversations aren't the enemy. We want "Dade Men" to bring the conversation to the forefront and enlighten men and boys who want to change their thoughts on masculinity. And because most conversations put women against men as the enemy, we're trying to start the conversation a little differently."
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The nonprofit hopes to put together another edition of "Dade Men" next year, except this time with 100 men instead of 12.
"This is still a very grassroots initiative," she says. "For now, we're very focused on Miami, but we want to expand it [nationally] as much as we can in the future because every day this conversation remains hidden is another day the problem persists."
The exhibit is open through December 15 at Green Space, 310 NW 26th St., Suite 1, Miami, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.