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Mental Health Lessons for African American Men


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Dr. Obari Cartman has served as a Professor of Psychology at Georgia State University and the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University. He is a writer, therapist, photographer, drummer, and grassroots mental health advocate. In this episode of Motivational Mondays, he shares how he’s striving to help young Black men address their mental health and change their impact on the world.


When Dr. Cartman interned as a therapist, his caseload always consisted of teenage boys. He had numerous conversations with young Black men about emotional intelligence. He started to see a pattern of the same stories and challenges. He was frustrated with the number of internal and external obstacles that they faced. He began to realize that the one-on-one therapy model wasn’t efficient enough to deal with their trauma.

He wanted to create a conversational guide on a variety of important topics to help young men see themselves more clearly. It helps them engage in internal interrogation without having to deal with public vulnerability. It also addresses the mental health and identity challenges of young Black men.


Dr. Cartman thought about what his father taught him about women. He loves his dad but he was not an amazing husband and he saw the conflict in his house. How could he honor his father while discarding many of the things he taught him? He had to take the best of him and leave the worst of what he inherited from his father, believing that men need to have more intimate and honest conversations. They need a space to shed bravado and work on themselves. 

His book is about his own journey as a traditional lady’s man and his transformation. He explains that he is a caretaker for his mother and because he belongs to her, he will sacrifice for her. Dr. Cartman also has two sons and he sees how easily small moments can become the building blocks for how they view relationships with women.

He doesn’t allow people to address his kids as “pimp” or “player.” They’re children. They don’t need to be indoctrinated at four and five years old. In Dr. Cartman’s observation, some Black men tend to exercise their privilege to mimic power structures that cause unprecedented domestic harm. It begins with those small moments that can’t be overlooked.


Much of the music these young Black men listen to funnels sociopathy into their brains. It has to be interrupted to uproot the ideas that bombard them about being black, gender, money, etc. Dr. Cartman emphasizes that you have to pause and reflect to determine what’s valuable and what’s not. He goes on to say “Whatever your profession is, I think that we have the responsibility to think about the impact that [our] work has on the minds and hearts of the people that are influenced by it.”

Musicians are in a unique place. Rappers have a specific role to play because they live on the motto of authenticity while performing a limited and narrow version of a story. The themes they perpetuate are neither healthy nor productive for their listeners. It has a reverberating impact and Dr. Cartman is afraid they’re unraveling the communities they came from. 

“What are you willing to do as a human being, as a man, and as a person? At some point, the money has got to have a limit. You can’t do anything for money. You can’t say anything for money.” Some rappers make their careers on lying or only telling versions of the truth and Dr. Cartman pushes back on the perpetuation of these lies.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

  • [0:25] Dr. Cartman’s experience in Chicago
  • [3:50] Why Dr. Cartman Wrote MANifest
  • [7:47] The concept of ancestral trauma
  • [11:09] Why Dr. Cartman Wrote Lady’s Man
  • [15:10] How rappers have a unique position of authority

Listen to the bonus episode to learn about the importance of mental health and wellness, and Dr. Cartman’s advice for young Black men who are considering therapy.