Quentin Walcott’s friends call him “Q,” but the community knows him best as the executive director of CONNECT NYC, an anti-violence program that preemptively works with male New Yorkers. For the past two decades, he’s looked into the future when it comes to stopping gender-based abuse.
Walcott’s activism began as a student at York College/CUNY. As a youngster, he advocated for the release of political prisoners, protested police brutality and championed Black studies. His work formed his worldview to consider the intersection of race, class and gender whenever he approached an issue. So when Walcott sought to address domestic violence, he grappled with what role men like him should play.
“We make this about men in what they’re experiencing, because they’re not just waking up and being harmful in their relationships,” said Walcott. “They’re being harmed by systems, by racism, by what it means to be a man—being the breadwinner, making all major decisions and all of the other things attributed to being a man and a husband. All those [ideals] are difficult to live up to, right?”
Most anti-violence programs are intervention-based. They protect victims from their abusers, offering them spaces to stay and resources to remain safe. Walcott knows these services are critical in New York City. But he believes CONNECT can stop abusers long before they become abusers. With domestic and interpartner violence, Walcott cites that over 85% of abusers are men.
“Wherever there is violence, we scratch the surface deep enough, there’ll be a man standing,” he said. “So we have to be really honest about that. What can we do? And what resources can we give men to interrupt this?”
But he also knows that men can be victims. And some are neither. So he just meets them where they are. Many times, that starts at CONNECT’s roundtable conversations.
“We talk about male privilege, entitlement, expectations, and we also talk about the harm that men do [to] women and girls,” said Walcott. “But we’re also talking about accountability and what that looks like, and how can we hold each other accountable.”
Accountability isn’t always punitive according to Walcott. To him, throwing people in jail doesn’t fix the root causes. Instead, CONNECT focuses on changing attitudes and belief systems towards masculinity, encouraging vulnerability over violence. From there, men can hold other men responsible as peer mediators. Transforming a culture of violence to a culture of peace, as he calls it.
In 2010, Walcott co-founded the Father’s Day Pledge Against Violence with former councilwoman Julissa Ferreras. Initially, men would swear to never participate in domestic abuse but it’s since expanded to all forms of violence, including bullying and workplace harassment. There are 11 tenets in the pledge ranging from confronting sexist language to mentoring young men.
Today, the pledge is found in over 50 cities and three different countries. New Yorkers can participate this upcoming Thursday at the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall. The pledge takes place at noon.
As for Walcott, he’s compiled a resume mile-long with distinctions since his days as a student activist. He’s the first man to win the National Organization for Women – New York City’s Susan B. Anthony Award in 2012, received the United Nations Trust Fund Award in 2013 and spoke at the White House for the United State of Women Summit in 2016. In 2018, he served on the city’s Domestic Violence Task Force Steering Committee. And his work isn’t provincial to New York City. Walcott trekked the globe, speaking at anti-violence forums in countries such as Brazil, India and South Africa. The past 22 years have been quite meaningful.
“Providing spaces for men to engage has been a powerful thing that we’ve done,” said Walcott. “And it’s all again strategy to keep women and children safe and other men safe—but also for men to transform.”
Father’s Day Pledge Against Violence will start at 12 p.m. EST on Thursday, June 16, at 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201-3709. There will be an online pledge on Saturday, June 18, on Zoom. Those interested can sign up on FathersDayPledge.com. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w