“I never forget where I came from; I’m always willing to help somebody. So
wherever I end up when I graduate, I’m going to come back to this same organization that I’m in right now in college and I’m going to help that person get to where they have to be.”
That statement by Tommy Foster, a junior television and digital media major, emphasizes what it means to be part of The Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood, also known as La Hermandad, is a student-run organization on campus led by Foster, the club’s president, and senior political science and Spanish major Jordan Stewart, the club’s vice president. The Brotherhood trains their members to be educated about social topics that affect people of color and to also carry themselves with a high degree of professionalism.
“The Brotherhood is about community building with one another, educating one another [and] empowering one another,” Stewart said. “[It’s also about] just encouraging more Black and Hispanic leaders on campus.”
To accomplish their goals, one of The Brotherhood’s flagship initiatives is Necktie
Tuesday, where members meet in their most professional clothing and often bring in someone high up in their respective industry to speak to the group.
“We dress up in our ‘Sunday best’ to get rid of the stigma that Black and Hispanic males have of not being professional,” Stewart said.
That stigma is especially important to overcome, as only 9.8% of total employed Black or African Americans are in management, professional and related occupations, as are 10.4% of total employed Hispanics in America as of 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Brotherhood aims to increase diversity in those high-up positions by preparing its members to score interviews early on and stand out as job applicants.
In addition to the Necktie Tuesdays, The Brotherhood also empowers its members through their general body meetings.
“We bring everybody together,” Foster said. “We unite and we have living-room conversations, and we just talk about the issues that affect us in society.”
One important issue that is discussed is mental health.
“Although [there weren’t] a lot of people there, the people who were there shared stories about things they go through that they don’t open up about,” Stewart said. “And that was a good time to see what that safe space is all about for men of color, [since] we feel like we can’t share those things.”
Jeronimo Valcarcel, an Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) counselor and the faculty advisor to The Brotherhood, said he sees the impact the group is making in the Black and Latino male communities.
“There’s this narrative that Black and Latino men are unprofessional just in our natural ways, in a sense,” Valcarcel said. “Whether it’s with our style, the way we dress [or] the way we present ourselves. So, The Brotherhood is an organization that takes that narrative and tries to show that as Black and Latino men, we are professional.”
The Brotherhood is planning to empower men of color off campus as well. They, along with other groups on campus, spoke at Stewart’s old high school during Black History Month.
“The Brotherhood [came], The Voices of Unity [were singing] and the president of the [Montclair State] NAACP, Kevin Bernard, [was there as well],” Stewart said. “We [had] a good time and put on a show for the students that basically encouraged them and educated them.”
Valcarcel said he is impressed with how the group is achieving its goals.
“They speak about topics that are really important, [like] current events [and] history,” Valcarcel said. “And they’re educating the Black and Latino men on this campus and the students on this campus. To be honest, every time I go to one of their meetings, they’re having a very intellectual, insightful conversation.”
Being a part of The Brotherhood has made Foster recognize how lucky he is to be able to break cultural stereotypes and rise above them.
“I remember when I was in middle school and I needed somebody to help push me on and give me advice,” Foster said. “[Now], we’re in these positions of leadership. However far we come, I’m always willing to look back on where I came from and help somebody.”
Stewart had similar sentiments.
“It’s all about building our community, our brothers and the connections that we make in networking,” Stewart said. “The more and more we do that, [the more] I can definitely see [The Brotherhood] extending outside of Montclair State University.”
You can follow The Brotherhood on Instagram at @msubrotherhood, and go to their general body meetings on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. in the Red Hawk Nest in the Student Center to learn more and get involved.