LOS ANGELES — For men, showing too much emotion has traditionally been discouraged, but this is especially true within the Black community. So many young boys grow up struggling to convey how they feel.

To change this narrative, community leaders are working both in the heart of Los Angeles’ Black community, but also on the big screen.

They’re on the Crenshaw YMCA basketball court bright and early every Sunday connecting through community.

Aaron Hall said it’s hard to get Black men to go to an actual therapist, but here, they can leave it all on the floor.

“It’s really, really therapeutic for all of us,” he said.

He said growing up in the Crenshaw District comes with a unique set of challenges, but also a deep sense of pride.

This made it special when Hall was asked to take over as executive director of the Crenshaw YMCA.

He calls the needs of this community massive and said he intends to break generational cycles one student at a time. It’s why one of his first courses of action was launching a men’s leadership class for the middle schoolers.

“It’s all about redefining what they think it is to be a man. What is a man? How does a man move? How does a man work? Is a man always tough? Does a man cry? Sometimes you’re gonna be sad, sometimes you’re gonna be happy, sometimes you’re gonna be depressed and that’s OK to show those emotions,” Hall explained.

They’re the lessons that taught 17-year-old Kayyin Arrington how to navigate life’s uncertainties, even without a present father to guide him. 

Working at the YMCA on weekends, Arrington said he had to become the man of the house at a young age, but as he got older, he realized that growing up with women showed him the importance of vulnerability.

Still, he’s not immune to societies’ pressure.

“Since we were young, we are taught to not show emotion and be like the leader of the household and to like carry a huge burden to like, be strong and show no emotion,” Arrington explained.

It’s a narrative actor Michael B. Jordan was intentional about capturing on the big screen in his directorial debut for Creed III.

He said he wanted the film to reflect lessons he learned in life, tackling the issues of toxic masculinity while making a statement about childhood trauma, humanity and its nuances through his character, Adonis Creed.

“By [Adonis] not talking about [his trauma] and not expressing himself, the toxic masculinity that comes along with generations of teaching men not to talk about how they feel not talking about the pain not addressing it. It makes you weak, it makes you less of a man. But in actuality, I think it makes you a lot stronger to be able to have to face those hardships,” Jordan explained at a press junket ahead of Creed’s release.

Hall agreed saying it’s crucial to show the boys who often live in single parent, low-income households healthy ways of expression other than fighting, which he finds is often their first response. 

“Showing them that there’s so many different ways to express those emotions that doesn’t involve coming to fist to cuffs with their classmate,” he said. 

It takes time to change a narrative dating back centuries, he admits, but shifting the trajectory is well worth the effort.