Tottenham MP David Lammy is just one of the 56 black men who have been photographed as part of a campaign to challenge lazy and dangerous stereotypes of black men in the media.
Curator and photgrapher Cephas Williams spoke to It’s Nice That about the conception of the project and says, “It pushed me to think about how many more black men are doing great things but are never heard or spotlighted. I started to question further, why is it that this never makes headline news? The majority of time I see an idea of myself on the news paper it is for things around knife crime and violence, but I could point to so many black men within my personal network that weren’t doing that but in-fact where doing great things. This platform looks to spotlight these men and these stories”.
The tagline of the photography series reads, “I am not my stereotype” and takes what Williams calls the “cliche image of a black man wearing a hoody,” to show the plurality of black male identity. The campaign aims to challenge the media demonisation that often sees blackness through a singular lens, and the project use this photo series to tell the real story of the black male experience.
The concept is simple but asks questions – how does the hoody change the way in which you see someone? How successfully have the garment been used to legitimise demonisation? Who are the men inside them? The series features Sky’s football presenter Samuel Obaseki alongside business managers, fathers, writers, electricians, Uber drivers, actors, and a certain Tottenham MP.
The project is a “bid to put black men at the forefront of the conversations that are being had about black men” and the future aims are to extend the campaign, to focus a light on 56 men annually. To Cephas, now is the perfect time for him ot make the point, noting, “In short, it’s time to change the narrative. Many people within the black community that I have spoken to are tired of hearing news about the few people that are doing negative things, a majority of black men on my contact list are doing great things, and we’re hearing too much about black men only when they’ve been a victim of knife crime or a perpetrator of violence, either than or sports and music. It’s time to change the reason why people write about us”.
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