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Meet Mark Winkler of Manhood Camp/ Fatherhood Circle

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Winkler.

Mark, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in St. Louis, Mo. However, I moved to New York City when I was ten. I lived with my mother in St. Louis and with my father and older brother in New York, It was both Saint Louis’s mid-western hospitality and New York’s fast moving, make it or break city vibe that helped shape my world view.

I grew up caring deeply about people and believed the best way to help anyone was to help them fully manage their own affairs. It was in that mind-set I co-founded my non-profit organization called Manhood Camp. I’ll speak on that a little later.

Before Manhood Camp, I worked a few years as a music agent with United Talent Agency(UTA). That was an amazing experience. I got to use a lot of my New York fast moving and grooving strategies and fast talk during my tenure at UTA. Some of the artists I signed and booked included, Nelly, Patti LaBelle, Teena Marie, Anthony Hamilton, Nas and Mase. It was a lot of fun but not too emotionally fulfilling. I needed something more so I decided to leave UTA and return back to my passion, working with families and children in need.

Has it been a smooth road?
Moving away from the bright lights and glitter of Hollywood was not an easy transition. There were many adjustments I had to endure, First, I was no longer making Hollywood money. My choice to start working with under-served families and youth meant a decrease in financial compensation. Secondly, getting people to support your efforts is not a cakewalk when you do not have A or even B list clients as your calling card. A valued mentor once told me that when you decide to provide programming to the under-served, you should prepare yourself for a roller coaster ride of triumphs and seemingly insurmountable challenges. That was over ten years ago and I did not fully comprehend what he was talking about at the time. I do now.

Today I completely understand. Serving a population of people who are often socially neglected can be difficult on many fronts. Many times it’s difficult to help the youth and their families obtain even basic transitional resources(i.e. proper shelter, food clothing and supplemental, educational resources). Nonetheless, I traverse these obstacles with a smile and a reminder that everyone deserves a meaning life.

A very painful personal challenge I experienced was being separated from daughter during a tumultuous child custody trial. Enduring that experience taught me a great deal about my level of resolve and level of love and compassion necessary to come through that process mentally, physically and spiritually intact. I wrote and published a book entitled My Daughter’s Keeper to help inspire other fathers going through that process.

Please tell us about Manhood Camp/Fatherhood Circle.
As I mentioned, once I departed UTA, I co-founded a non-profit working with under-served youth and families called Manhood camp. Our primary mission at Manhood Camp is to provide leadership and life-skill programming and community service opportunities that encourage under-served youth in the Los Angeles region to be well rounded and productive citizens.

After working with many dozens of youth, my co-founding partner, Travon Tillis, and I decided that it would be a wise decision to work more closely with the fathers of the young men we were serving to help ensure the life strategies we were providing the youth did not fizzle away once they returned home following our weekly meetings. In the spirit of that desire, we formed the Fatherhood Circle – a supportive network for fathers to discuss general parenting issues as well receive effective strategies to help navigate Family Court, Dependency Court and Child Protective Services.

I am very proud of the work that we are doing at Manhood Camp and Fatherhood Circle. One of my proudest moments was an event we staged that brought youth and police together in order to have a spirited and respectful conversation about ideas to help strengthen the relationship between the two parties and improve law enforcement’s overall relationship with the community. It was a truly inspirational event.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I love working in Los Angeles. It is a city that offers a diverse body of people and ideas. Many times, I find myself looking for inspiration and all I have to do is take a brief ride along the PCH and stop for a moment to look at the beautiful ocean or take a walk through Leimert Park and have a conversation with the prideful residents of that historic neighborhood.

If I could change anything about Los Angeles, I would create opportunities for people to talk to one another more. There are so many creative and hard-working people here that share so much in common and if they could just communicate openly and honestly one to the other more often, oh what a much more wonderful lace this great place would be.


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