The Augment Review

Interview with Boys Are Not Stone co-founder John Vincent

by Isaiah Adepoju

Posted January 28th, 2021
Photo courtesy of John Vincent

John Chizoba Vincent become the names of three people who deliberately see through each other. Sometimes, they are at war with each other ,and at times, they are the ties that never got broken. They: Them: Us: We represent Boys and their Anatomies, Men and their vulnerabilities, and Humans and their imperfections. Between them are rosy track roads that are rough and tough. They live in a lonely room in Lagos, Nigeria. They have been published widely in online magazines and offline magazines. They are the founder of Philm Republic Pictures and Co-founder, Boys Are Not Stones Initiative; an organization that upholds the love for the BoyChild. Staff writer Isaiah Adepoju interviewed him about his work and his thoughts.

Isaiah Adepoju: Good day Sir.

John Vincent: Good day, Mr. Adepoju

Isaiah Adepoju: You are the convener of "Boys Are Not Stone", an extraordinary voice emerging from Africa's theater and Creative sector in its aspect of providing an avenue for boys who are victims of Hegemonic masculinity to speak out their scars and its enormity. We, the audience, have been expecting this anthology to be out soon which promises to be groundbreaking, so I wish to ask what inspired this giant leap?

John Vincent: We are humans. We are fallible. Be it male or female gender, we all have our shortcomings and weeknesses. Girls got raped and molested; and boys got molested and abused too, but the problem is that the society tends to pay more attention to female abuse and molestation than the male gender. When it comes to rape, molestation, abuse and others, we talk more of the female molestation, harassment and abuse forgetting that there are boys who are also abused by their parents, aunties, uncles, priests and others, sexually or emotionally.

I started boys are not stones In 2018. And what prompted me to start this course was what happened at a Police station. A friend of mine was arrested the night before while he went out to buy something from a shop near our house, and he was arrested by SARS. So, when we were informed of where he was, we went to bail him. On getting there, we were asked to sit in the reception. Then that morning, a young man of twenty or so ran into the police station to report a case of molestation and rape. He said some group of ladies molestated him the night before and one out of them who had been making some advances at him dragged him into a nearby bush and forcefully had unplanned sex with him.

The police men on duty then laughed at him and said he has no case against those ladies, that he actually enjoyed the sex with them. And this statement alone made the guy feel ashamed of coming to report. He left covering his face in shame. He looked stupid and rejected as he was leaving the station. I was angry because this was a boy that came to report to the law enforcement agency (police) all what he passed through but he was made mockery of.

So, after bailing my friend, Boys are not stones was birthed that afternoon while at home, angry, thinking of the manner by which the police men attended to that case. After some weeks of writing about boys and their plights in our society, especially those experiences nobody knows they pass through, and even others which the society failed to address through my social media, Jamiu Ahmad chatted me up and said we could actually turn those emotions into a book and that was how the first anthology was born. And from 2018 till now, we have had two publications which includes Boys are not stones and Country Of broken Boys.

ID: What should we expect in this anthology? Are the judges more focused on the originality or the writing prowess of the submitted works, or what are the criterion for the selection?

JV: The team is looking out for works that portray boys in general - their plights, pains, weaknesses, steadfastness and emotional will. We focus on the originality of the works, prowess and the ability of the writer to dig deep into what makes a boy, a boy. Besides, we are digging deeper into the anatomy of boys, men and others. And this is a guideline for anyone that wants to participate. Readers should expect a beautiful journey into the life of the BoyChild and the totality of boyhood.

ID: In retrospect and introspect, what changes has happened to the male gender? Do you also believe that the rise of feminism, African or Western, has lifted burden off their shoulders, as it claims it has, subtly or conspicuously?

JV: Nothing changes. A change to one man is not a change to all. The same as a change to one woman is not a change to all women. We still have men who beat their wives, we still have men who take their wives for granted. We still have some men who don't respect their wives and we still have some women who still see men as worthless being because of how they were groomed. We still have women who see men as beasts because their mothers constantly planted those seeds in their ears while they were growing up.

To me, nothing has really changed now from what was in the past in as much as the world is changing. We still have women who still see men as the breadwinners of the house and when these men are not able to meet up, they are seen as weak or defeated men. Feminism, African or Western culture has not in anyway lifted any burden off their shoulder rather in some areas it has compounded their plights the more. But like patient preachers, we will keep preaching hoping that some day both men and women will open their eyes to embrace themselves and say, 'no one is better, we are all humans'.

ID: Feminism. Femininity. Womanism. Masculinism. Misogynism. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). Do you hold grudges for any of these subtly related philosophies, and why?

JV: I don't. They are human beings as we are.

ID: Following the latest release of the world renown writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's short story, Zikora, do you perceive toxic femininity in the story? And doesn't it serve as an antagonistic force towards the realization of the masculine as not only the known 'predator' but also the prey. A victim. A victim of Hegemonic masculinity, of societal alienation and parental negligence as some sort of African-perceived 'higher' gender?

JV: (Smiles) I reserve my opinion on this.

ID: Viewing it from the critical lenses, both as a writer, a creative artist, and a cinematographer, who has seen first hand Nigerian theater and literature, have you noticed any movement of literature that effortlessly tries to approach masculinity from the perspective through which you have approached it through the forthcoming publication of "Boys Are Not Stones"?

JV: There is a saying that If you make a show of going against the time, flaunting your unconventional ideals and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attentions and you look down on them. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is far safer to blend and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerated friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness. The fact is, there is no Literary work or any literature that has fought or approached masculinity from the angles which we have taken that I know. In fact, when I started this, I was blocked many times on facebook and other social media apps because many people saw it as madness or rather something that shouldn't be there. Until Jamiu Ahmed joined, then Ebubechukwu Nwagbo, Jaachi Anyatonwu, Maxwell Opia-Enwemuche, and many others joined us to create a stronger voice. Right now, people still make reference to us when it comes to anything about the BoyChild.

IA: Do you see Nigeria literature, home and abroad, tackling and expatiating the ideology, in few years to come?

JV: Of course, yes. Many people are already working around this. Often times my attention has been called to many write up on facebook about the BoyChild. Some people even shared links of popular posts about the boychild published online journals. Recently, aside Boys Are Not Stones Initiative, there is also two organizations that are pushing behind us. One of them is Boys Matter Too and the other is The BoyChild movement. I think all we need is time. It will definitely get to the mainstream media and gets more acceptance in the Nigeria literature. Right now, there is a book I am reading which is about the BoyChild. I think the title is: For Coloured Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough edited by Keith Boykin. This book is mostly about the plights of the Boychild.

IA: Looking at the future in its grown physique and enormity and stealing a gaze at the lean past when we were necessary victims of this African style of parenting, do you see the gargantuan faultiness in this parenting style? And how do you propose we change and make it better?

JV: The fact is, you cannot teach a mother how to train her child. To some extent there is no school of thought that has the laydown rules, formats, principles or policies on how a child should be trained. Meanwhile, you cannot fault a parent in whatever ways she chooses to train her child, hence I always believe that no parent should be blamed on the upbringing of a child. Why do i have this Believe? This is why. There is a particular time/age that a parent cannot control her/his child any more. And I believe by this age, the child should have known what is good and bad and the way he should live his life. Remember these people are just our guidance, they are not us. They may have given birth to us but they don't have a say in our lives. We are life Longing for its own and we are responsible for our life and we must own it. So, no matter how bad or good a parent must have trained his or her child, the child has the right to re-train himself and go after what he wants in life. So, as a mother or a father, the only thing that is desirable of her/him is to show her child the right way to life and what life entails. Every one has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is the usual insecurities, an uncontrollable emotion or need; It can be a small secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

IA: Where do you see the movement you have so humbly started and the involvement of the Nigeria, Africa, and world literature about the men's victimization, in the next ten years?

JV: (Smiles) World wide. I see it already taken it own shape even when I am not there to attend to it. In the next ten years, I see a body that cater for the Boychild. An organization that fight for the uplifting of the Boychild and giving them hope to live for who they are and what they plan to be in the future. I see an Organization that defend the BoyChild in all his plights and giving them a shoulder to lean on.

IA: Do you see this ideology thriving here, in the African continent and by the extension of its richness to the world at large?

JV: Yes. It will definitely thrive here and beyond. Many boys are already picking interest, coming out to say what they passed through in the hands of their maidens, aunties, uncles, priests and big mommies as boys left in their mercy to take care of. There was a day a boy from London sent me a message on my messenger about the abuse he received while growing up in the house of his Aunt in East London. To be honest with you, this is happening everywhere, every day. This is happening and these people that it is happening to are either shy to talk about it or they don't have someone they can rely on or they don't have channels through which they can relate their experiences to. Girls got molested and abused; and boys got molested and abused too. Relatively, it happens everyday in our houses, streets and compound where we live in. Honestly speaking, it will thrive. Every new thing takes time to settle well with people. We strongly believe that it will be a success because we don't venture into something that is fruitless.

IA: And onto the last question: can you tip us about some of your plans in ensuring that 'badness' is in equal proportion levelled on both genders, without prejudice nor favoritism?

JV: We are working to create initiatives that would cater for humanity (Boys and girls, women and men alike.). A girl can walk in and be treated as a boy was treated and a man can walk in and be taught as a woman was taught. And when these initiatives take shape, we will have no option than to see that our services are for Humanity and not for genders, not for boys and girls but for Humanity, just humanity. There is a foundation we are hoping and planning to establish soonest. And one of the objectives of this foundation is services to humanity.

Like what I have always said, all I wanted is a balanced society where girls and boys can be treated equally and not based on who they are; a Boy or a girl but humans. We need a society where a boy can be seen as a human he is; and should be able to show his weaknesses and flaws without being mocked. He can also be allowed to weep when necessary and this would not in anyway make him a lesser boy. And a girl also could be seen as a girl and a human she is and can be able to cry and be taken care of. In as much as balanced is seen as an Illusion by many, it is still achievable.