In addition to his many years of facilitating in social justice and community contexts, Lawrence Barriner II has been working together with a group of others to build the Greater Boston Men’s Network.  This organization brings men and men’s groups together to strengthen connections among them, which they consider an opportunity to liberate their potential for loving, accountability, and reciprocal personal and public relationships.  This is one of the many projects Lawrence has that helps him and others transform.


Lawrence mentions that he is descendant of Charles Maynor of Charleston, SC, born in 1813, who was likely enslaved until after the Civil War.  His family moved south from SC into Florida and Georgia.

Lawrence was born in Atlanta in 1989 to Lawrence Barriner, Sr., a pastor of the United Methodist Church, and Jacqueline Parramore, a schoolteacher, both growing up poor, yet working hard to go through college, something new happening in his family.  Moving from Atlanta to Miami and eventually to Tallahassee by the time he was 5 until 18 when he left for college, he grew up academically inclined in contrast to his athletic brother.  He was a book worm, and in math club, band (trombone) and orchestra (violin), and spent many hours with a church youth group, which gave him some independence from the watchful eyes of his parents.  To further his independence, he decided to go far away for college, going to MIT to study computer science.

At MIT Lawrence chose to live in a liberal dormitory where his floor experimented with a variety of substances and students painted and repainted the walls often.  He had a great time, and came out (lived out) of the closet having his first official boyfriend.  After that year, he decided he needed to develop more clarity about his spiritual life, so he left MIT to ask some big questions of his faith of origin. He moved to Gainesville, Florida and realized through community service and organizing work that the Christianity with which he had grown up, was not as trustworthy as he thought. During this transformational period of his life, his started to do community organizing from a perspective of liberation theology at the Gainesville Catholic Worker House (GCW).  Here

GCW is a member of the larger Catholic Worker Community originally organized by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, where he did a six month metanoia internship.

he came to see that there was a mismatch between the effort people were putting into making the world a better place, and the amount of change that was happening. This made him want to understand how to be more strategic about changing the world, and the best places to apply pressure to change systems.  Therefore, when he returned to MIT, he focused on systems thinking, completing a five year Bachelor’s/Master’s program in Urban Planning.  He focused his coursework locally on food justice, food advocacy and food sovereignty as he believed the food system was a place where anyone could learn about how systems worked.

In the communities where universities are based, students typically do projects in the city, and then when they graduate, they leave the structures (technology, data, relationships) that they created during their training.  This usually means that their projects don’t have a long-term impact on the communities.

After MIT Lawrence decided to remain in Boston to attempt to be in right relationship to the communities that had grounded his education (see box). For income, Lawrence deepened his communications work and began consulting, first in urban agriculture policy and then beyond. His communications skills led to work at the Interaction Institute for Social Change where he learned facilitation. After that, he worked as the Community Media Program Director at the MIT Community Innovators Lab and then as Network Engagement Manager at the Center for Story-based Strategy.  In the last year he has been developing his own consulting business for which he provides facilitation, coaching and training mostly with environmental organizations.  He says he is now in the last three years (33-35) of a seven-year block of his life, thinking about what the next seven will look like.

Lawrence was impressed with the generational mentoring that he experienced in the church community in which he was raised.  They had the youngest men mentored by the next oldest, that man mentored by an older man, etc., and he would like to recreate this in the men’s community.

Lawrence has observed that patriarchy patterns in social systems consistently undermine social justice movements from making long-term progress.  He wants to use men’s work to interrogate and dismantle (maybe even compost) patriarchy so that all movements can be more effective.

The following two insights are some of Lawrence’s most significant learnings in doing men’s work:

  1. The conditioning of patriarchy begins in the body at a young age. Adults tell children, but disproportionately boys, not to cry or don’t be like a girl or be weak.  As a result, children, especially boys, get disconnected from their feelings and emotions that they would normally experience in their bodies. With this disconnection, boys are more able to withstand harm emotionally and physically, even harm they cause themselves. This allows the harm of others because we can no longer feel when others are feeling bad. Patriarchy disconnects the embodied mechanisms our species has evolved to feel and respond to each other.
  2. Men have a beautiful healthy power, and they want to yield it. Yet so many of us have no training about how to yield power in healthy ways. “We are out here really wanting to be powerful, to be influential, to be effective in making change in our communities, and just have so much aloneness, and so much separation from each other that we don’t learn what our real power is, and how to wield it for the benefit of ourselves and our community.”  As a result, by seeking good things in unhealthy ways, men often manipulative and abusive, or suffer from addictive and other self-harming behaviors.
If he had to pick a celebrity with whom he would be on an island he would pick: Bayard Rustin, a gay black organizer who taught Martin Luther King about the use of non-violent direct action, bringing that approach into the civil rights movement, but sidelined because he got busted having sex with two guys in a car.  Leadership of Southern Freedom Movement decided he was a risk to the national strategy, so he was sidelined. See the documentary: Brother Outsider.  However, since he was a child he has been intentional about ignoring people he would never meet because he thinks that the world would be a better place if they paid as much attention to people right next to them like their neighbors, as they do to celebrities.

For the Post Patriarchy Futures project, a key example of how Lawrence envisions and creates change, one man at a time, he asks participants to imagine what the world would be like beyond patriarchy, and to realize that vision is possible.  Specifically, he asks participants to interrogate where did patriarchy shape respect, responsibility, care, commitment, trust, and knowledge, the elements of love named by Bell Hooks. Then he asks things like “If patriarchy had not shaped your understanding of say, commitment, what would your relationships look like?” Finally, he encourages participants to take even just one step towards acting in that newly imagined vision. He says this work keeps him and others grounded; instead of fighting against all that is bad, he triggers feelings of hope in himself and others.