Tiana Moon of Brown Boi Project on Liberatory Masculinity, their Retreat and the Future

At the heart of social transformation, where the push for equity meets the personal journey of identity, Brown Boi Project (BBP) carves out a space for radical reimagination. Since its inception in 2010 by B. Cole, BBP has been steering conversations and actions towards a new understanding of masculinity — one that honors the experiences and leadership of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). For over a decade, BBP has been a fiscally sponsored project (FSP) of the Movement Strategy Center (MSC), joining a dynamic community of transformative movement leaders and organizations.

Within BBP, the tapestry of gender justice intertwines seamlessly with collective liberation and healing. At the heart of their mission lies Liberatory Masculinity, a guiding framework and consciousness raising practice. It is a commitment to reconditioning the ego to reject patriarchy and repurpose masculinity in service of liberation. It’s a lifelong journey of self reflection, un/re-learning, and radical care, aiming to disrupt harmful gender conventions, and usher in a mosaic of masculinities grounded in service, empathy, and wholeness. Through retreats, workshops, and partnerships, BBP supports leaders by equipping them with tools and experiences to embed these new understandings within their local communities. 

In November 2023, BBP hosted a retreat, bringing together sixteen community builders, cultural workers, and facilitators to engage in their longstanding practice of creating practice spaces and sanctuaries that explore non-oppressive masculinities rooted in love and liberation. We recently had the privilege of virtually connecting with Tiana Moon (they/them), Co-Director of BBP. Moon shared insights into the ongoing efforts of the project, its philosophical underpinnings, and the ripple effects of their work within the community and beyond.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MSC: First, can you share Brown Boi’s Project definition for “Libratory Masculinity?” 

Tiana Moon (TM): Our Liberatory Masculinity concept is an emerging framework that is still developing. It is a practice of reconditioning the ego in order to unlearn and recover from patriarchal masculinity. This calls for an engaged study of social movements; including feminism, abolition, disability justice, and anti-colonialism. It resists and subverts toxic individualism and prioritizes care and collaboration over competition. We resist patriarchy and invite our community to go beyond the limits set forth by it.

Liberatory Masculinity is our effort to create generous possibility models for what masculinity can be [and] an intervention that disrupts static and stoic expectations of emotionality, behavior, and expression. [BBP] says no to fragmenting ourselves, repressing vulnerability, and asserting dominance. We enthusiastically say yes to being a solid ancestor through service to our community, creating safety (internally and interpersonally), and integrating the feminine.

A photo from the August 2023 Liberatory Masculinity Retreat cohort courtesy of Brown Boi Project.

MSC: How did the retreat challenge conventional narratives around masculinity?

TM: We engage Healing Justice as a necessary anti-violence strategy for self care and community wellbeing. This includes embodied practice, political praxis, emotional development, ancestral connection, deep reflection, and self work. Participants grow their analysis of patriarchal masculinity in their day to day lives and in organizing, while exploring liberatory models for masculinity and gender that disrupt patriarchy. Our leadership model recognizes that community care, network resilience, gender justice activism, and economic self-sufficiency are intrinsically linked to our ability to change conditions in our communities and support the overall thriving of Queer and Trans BIPOC people.

"Liberatory Masculinity is our effort to create generous possibility models for what masculinity can be [and] an intervention that disrupts static and stoic expectations of emotionality, behavior, and expression."

MSC: How did you prepare participants for the retreat, and what support do they receive afterward? In what ways have participants reported changes in their perspectives or lives following the retreat?

TM: BIPOC LGBTQ2S+ communities are particularly vulnerable to unemployment, poverty, discrimination, and overall fewer life chances. To compound this, the cost of living is high, affordable housing is limited, and job wages are low. We ensure our spaces are accessible at no cost to participants, removing economic barriers to our programs. We are also a community of sick and disabled people and we prioritize meeting a variety of access needs with the utmost care. Organizationally, we strive to embody the 10 Principles of Disability Justice.

Our leadership retreats have an application and interview process. This gives us a number of opportunities to evaluate readiness, manage expectations, and integrate feedback, requests, and themes that come up with the application pool. Throughout this process we assess individual and collective needs including accessibility needs (mobility, lights, scents, language interpretation, learning styles, etc.), meals, etc. 

After the retreat concludes, we offer a number of ways to stay connected. Participants are invited to join our Discord and become a member of our national network. Additionally, we support various projects from our alumni. We may offer consultation, co-create and co-facilitate programs, and support organizational development.

MSC: How did the collaboration with the Outlaw Project come about, and why was it important for this retreat?

TM: We hosted our retreat in Tucson, AZ, which is home to Matice Moore (they/them), our Co-Director who also holds a dear relationship with Monica Jones (she/her), founder and director of the Outlaw Project. One of our major highlights was participating in their volunteer day where we helped clean up their yard and install raised garden beds. The Outlaw Project’s mission is to provide sustainable housing for trans folks. Wherever we gather, we connect with local organizations, groups, and individuals who support queer and trans people in their community to uplift their work and offer support where we can.

The cohort and community members of the Outlaw Project standing in front of a home being built holding up “We Stand with Monica Jones” shirts and Outlaw Project signs, courtesy of Brown Boi Project.

MSC: In what ways do you see the work of Brown Boi Project influencing the broader ecosystem of social justice organizations and movements, particularly in relation to addressing issues of masculinity, gender justice, and community care? How does MSC support and enhance this impact?

TM: Through the support of MSC, BBP creates possibility models, practice spaces, and sanctuaries for leaders to be held in community. Our retreat programs serve as a model for gatherings that integrate healing justice, disability justice principles, embodiment, play, and spaciousness. Our curriculum contributes to a feminist body of work that divests from patriarchy and creates more possibility models for masculinity. Our tools are an extension of our physical spaces and are shared, adapted, and expanded upon by our alumni. Through our work, we feed an ecosystem of organizers, base builders, artists, facilitators, advocates, and executive leadership that orchestrate change. 

MSC: BBP has been a beacon for those seeking a new vision of masculinity for over a decade. As the organization evolves, what’s next for BBP? 

TM: We are excited to continue developing our Liberatory Masculinity framework through the creation of a workbook that will be available to participants in our programs and, eventually, to the public. We have a few programs in the works with various alumni, we can’t say too much right now but be on the lookout for more leadership development opportunities. Sign up for our newsletter to get sneak peeks and updates! 

As they set their sights on expanding their California-centric programs, stay in touch with Brown Boi Project’s work by signing up for their newsletter for quarterly updates about what they’ve been up to. And, if you are able, consider sharing a gift that sustains the heart of BBP’s work in centering gender justice and leadership development. You can support their efforts by donating here

For those looking to learn more or engage with the Brown Boi Project, you can reach out to Moon directly at [email protected]. Follow BBP! on Instagram and Facebook.