Don Morton was a pastor for 25 years before launching The ReManned Project, his nonprofit based at the WIN Factory in Wilmington, in 2019. It’s something that probably doesn’t surprise people, given the leadership-driven mission of his most current work.
ReManned specializes in leadership development for a demographic that is both highly visible and often overlooked: Black men over 25 who lack resources to navigate a life where they have faced challenges including incarceration, poverty, violence and generally low expectations from society.
Though it’s a young organization, it has grown to have chapters in six cities, including an international chapter in Nairobi, Kenya.
And like many projects over the past year, it’s been nearly all virtual so far.
“We started cohort style and have had two graduating cohorts, but we have found that there were men that wanted to become a part of the ReManned Project but would have to wait until the cohort graduated, so instead we created a cyclical kind of access. They can access the Project at any time,” said Morton of the twice-a-week Zoom meetings and occasional in-person event. For those who struggle with the technology because they, for instance, just out of prison and haven’t used a smartphone before, the org offers lessons at the beginning that teach them how to use them.
The curriculum, called Character Arc, gives the men the tools to improve their lives, professionally and personally. Fatherhood is a a major issue they cover, as many of the participants are fathers, and some are not as present in their children’s’ lives as they want to be.
It’s a topic that Morton, a father of three, knows a lot about — not only as a parent, but as a son.
“I grew up like many of these guys grew up,” he said. “My mother is a phenomenal woman, and I like to say that she did the best she could with what she had at the time that she had it. My father was in the home until I was 9 or 10 years old, but he was emotionally absent. It wasn’t until later that he wrote a letter to my grandmother telling her that he hopes that I can be the man that he could never be, and that he loved me but just didn’t know how to be a dad.”
“He and my mother had a volatile relationship and he moved to California, so he left me for a second time. In my young mind, I always asked, ‘What about me caused him to leave?’ My mother and father decided they were going to get back together, and a week before he returns he dies. So he leaves me a third time. My father died of chronic alcoholism. My message to guys comes from a place of authenticity that I am them.”
When it comes to Black fatherhood, Morton says it’s also important to highlight the good, something that doesn’t often happen.
“There are Black and Latino men who are doing a phenomenal work as dads that never get talked about,” he said. “There are studies that show that men of color are far more involved with their children than their white counterparts. I not only want to make sure we train and deploy and help the guys that are not doing as good of a job, but I also want to highlight the guys that are doing tremendous jobs at raising their children and as husbands, business owners, and so on.”
The Project, he says, is not about social justice.
“It’s important that we all do the hard work of fighting injustice and fighting systems,” Morton said. “That system has been around a while, and it’s going to be around a while longer, so the question isn’t, for me, how do we continue to fight the system. That’s my friends’ work. The question for me is how to I teach these guys to navigate it all and still come out on the other side and win.”
The ReManned Project’s newest initiative, Project 10,000, has a goal to coach 10,000 Black men from all of its locations into success. It will launch with an event at the WIN Factory on June 1 at 11 a.m. featuring Morton, Haneef Salaam of ACLU Delaware and participants and partners of ReManned. In addition to the launch, County Council President Karen Hartley Nagle and Councilwoman At Large Rysheema Dixon will present resolutions announcing June 1, 2021 as ReManned Project Day.
The ReManned Project will be launching a new website on June 8. In the meantime, follow the org on Twitter for updates.
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