Contra Costa County held its 11th annual “Men of Merit” awards ceremony at the Richmond Police Activities League last week, featuring author and activist Tony Porter as keynote speaker.
The ceremony, held in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, recognizes men who prevent acts of violence by working to steer community youth away from high-risk activities.
“It brings men together who are working in the field of prevention,” said Harold Blair, a member of the DELTA Committee Project, a Contra Costa County anti-violence initiative.
In Richmond alone, domestic violence-related 911 calls reached an all-time high in 2014: 620 were made that year, according to the most recent data available from California’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center. Of those calls, 578 involved reports of a weapon.
At last week’s event, Porter said that our culture’s tendency to label men as strong and women as weak directly contributes to domestic violence.
Porter, who works as a consultant to the NFL, NBA, military and Law and Order, is most well- known for his 2010 Ted Talk, “A Call to Men,” in which he argues that it’s important for men not to “act like a man,” because doing so can lead men to mistreat, abuse and disrespect women.
Twenty men were recognized in this year’s ceremony, the largest since the awards began.
Recipients included RYSE Center Program Manager Joe Kim and RYSE Youth Justice Culture Builder Tyjohn Sykes, Concord Police Sergeant Mike Kindorf, and Antioch’s Double Trouble Boxing Gym co-owners Daniel Castillo and Dario Castillo, Jr.
Twin brothers Daniel and Dario said the award was meaningful to them both.
“We’re not in the best part of Antioch—everybody knows that Antioch is becoming somewhat of a bad neighborhood,” Daniel Castillo said. “But teaching these kids that there’s no reason for domestic violence and no reason to be fighting at school makes me feel that we’re teaching them how to deal with anger issues in a positive way.”
Kim of the RYSE center said he owed his award to the kids he works with.
“I’m indebted to the young folks that I work with who show me every single day why it’s so important that we as men, as adults, as allies—really need to step up in order to support what young people are experiencing in the city,” said Kim.
The event concluded with the award recipients taking a pledge to end and prevent domestic violence in their communities, to treat women and girls with honor and respect, and to “lead with conviction and speak out against violence against women and girls.”