Loneliness, Black men, and Friendships: Part I

Superspade family, I am starting a 12-part series dealing with Loneliness, Black men, and Friendships. I think this issue is a silent crisis that is crippling Black men and our ability to forge meaningful relationships with each other while also seriously undermining our coping skills as life presents constant challenges. To be sure, I bounced around the ideas I had for this series with a handful of folks and based off the spirited exchanges, I knew God placed this issue on my heart for a reason.

And while this series will deal exclusively with Black men, it is applicable to a wide range of people. So I encourage men and women to add their thoughts as I am sure the issues discussed will broaden as deep and wide as the glaciers that span the polar ice caps. So to break the ice as it were, I thought I should kick things off with an introduction.

So imagine this, a young Black man in his late twenties to early thirties is preparing to get married. Everything is going fine; he and his fiancée are going through pre-marriage counseling and they joke about how silly it is to compare and contrast the prices for seat covers. So one night, the bride-to-be gives her fiancée the list she compiled for all the bridesmaids she wants to have in the wedding. She asks him what he thinks and her man looks over the list of five bridesmaids and says, (like Eddie Murphy in Raw) “OK.” The bride-to-be then informs her fiancée that he needs to find five groomsmen.

That scenario inspired this whole series because the fact is, most men do not have five best friends they can count on to be groomsmen in their wedding. I know most guys will recruit some family members to fill in the empty spots but for our purposes, let’s assume there will be no family fill-ins even though family can be your friends as well.

Do you have five close male friends you can call on? Really ponder that for a moment.

I surely don’t have five close male friends I could call on and I am sure many other Black men fit this same profile. And let’s not get caught up in semantics here, if you have three Black male friends, I am not saying you need to pick up two more. However, it is imperative that we take a bird’s eye view and understand what is happening to the quantity and quality of our Black male friendships as many of us suffer in silence, no matter the socioeconomic status.

Additionally, the machismo culture we live in has done a number on lessening the quality of Black male friendships as materialism and the quest for women has occupied far too much of our time and resources. You may ask why I keep harping on friendships between Black men, and here’s why. I believe that that when a man can share his hopes, heart, and fears with another man, that avenue empowers the entire community, period.

Moreover, I believe many Black men have learned to depend too much on female friendships to the point where we only feel comfortable sharing our emotions (if we even do that) with women. And as many of you can attest, the plethora of male-female friendships presents a whole range of issues that I will delve into later in the series. So regardless of your personal ratio of male friends to female friends, our community will prove to be so much stronger if we can better negotiate same gender friendships. This is particularly poignant when we can create spaces for Black men that facilitate friendships that are long-lasting, meaningful, and uplifting.

And so we are on the same page, I am coming to grips with my own issues concerning Black male friendships, so this series is less concerned with me coming up with answers rather than asking the right questions. My experiences and observations and conversations throughout my lifetime largely inform this series which means that if you disagree with I am trying to make, please make your presence felt. We all come from different walks from life so I will ask you the reader to help make this mosaic of understanding deeper levels of Black Thought as it concerns, Loneliness, Black Men, and Friendships.

There will be new posts once a week, so watch out for the second part in this series as we explore how Black men can come to grips with the fact that we don’t have many friends without sounding sappy.

Stay up fam,


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

5 responses to “Loneliness, Black men, and Friendships: Part I”

  1. Dumi says :

    I’m looking forward to series. What made you pick a 12 part series? And thankfully, I do have five close male friends, even though folks tend to look at you odd sometimes for having so many boys.

  2. Brandon Q. says :

    Thanks for the comment Dumi,

    To answer your question, I came up with a 12-part series because the more I thought about it and had conversations with folks, the list grew larger and larger. So I didn’t write 12 blanks and tried to fill them in.

    And I applaud you for having so many boys and the fact that people tend to you look at you weird because of that is an issue we are going to delve into.

  3. BJ says :

    I’m so glad you’ve decided to do a series like this one, that I hope will really tackle the issue of the lack of black male friendships. I personally feel that reasons for this issue entail a wide range of components that need to be addressed, some of which black men aren’t even really responsible for.

  4. Anonymous says :


    I am encouraged that you have the strength to discuss this issue. When it comes to true friendship I think of David and Jonathan – Anytime you can tell a friend that his father is trying to kill you and he reacts the way Jonathan did you know that you have a friend in deed. So, I think that it is important that men develop sincere friendships with other men not only because there is a deeper understanding for the issues, problems and deep feelings that men share and are not encouraged to foster, but society wants to say that this relationship has to be Gay. I disagree, just as women love to share and communicate with each other so do men. If you want to see something dear just watch little boys playing and sharing together in kindergarten and first grade – then something happens and they are taught that they are not suppose to be close or love other boys unless they are gay this is not right. I would like to hear from other men about how they feel about this issue. I am female but I do understand. I would love hear from Steve, Garlin, and all the other brothers out there, also.
    Love, Lady B

  5. Anonymous says :

    I don’t know a lot about male friendships, but I do believe that lonliness and misdirection in the lives of black men is affecting everyone in our community. I believe this is reflected in the lack of: motivation to find education or a trade for a career, pursuit of a stable family life, non-dependence on factors that contribute to substance abuse, happiness in self, and general self-respect and self-appreciation, etc in many instances…
    In turn, the entire black family is affected by this and when something is lacking on behalf of black men it also affects black women and children. I don’t consider myself old fashioned but I do believe that if our men are able to help themselves and provide comfort and direction for each other then it will strengthen the entire black family and we will be headed in a better direction as a people. Women do a damn good job with the family on their own but I’m that certain we would also like to be able to be dependent on our men to be strong, confident, and reliable and to be able to believe in each other.

    For those men that are doing this already….kudos…each one teach one!

    This appears to be an interesting series …thank you for posting this!

    Lady from MD

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