In a poignant video, high-profile artists respond to persistent and pervasive media misperceptions about Black men. The powerful Black Men Speak video is being released Tuesday in conjunction with the day-long event, Black Male Re-imagined III, in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center. In the video, artists such as Pharrell Williams, Baratunde Thurston, Franklin Leonard, Samora Pinderhughes, Rashad Drakeford, and Ron Draper call on the media to do better in its messaging about African-Americans.

“To understand the heartbeat and the emotion of the people, look at the artwork,” Draper, a mixed-medium artist who was born and raised in New York City’s Harlem community, says in the video. “You’ll see the anger. You’ll see the frustration. You’ll see what they really felt. Art is about inspiration. Art is about truth. Art speaks when I’m not able to. Art will last longer than any of us will.”

He then went on to tackle media stereotypes of Black men.

“We’re no different than anybody else, so why are we thugs, why are we hooligans, why are we hoodlums, why are we gang bangers?” he asks. “For what? Our art speaks our truth the more we portray people of color, especially young men, in a better light, the more people get to see us in other ways.”

Drakeford, a producer, also had strong words to say about the problem, which is underscored daily with the deaths of Black men–some mentally ill–who are killed by police.

“There’s always going to be that gap between what Black folks are dealing with and how we’re portrayed,” Drakeford says. “And I think every media outlet has to be held accountable. I mean, [Terence Crutcher] could be me. I’ve never been stopped on the street and asked for my diploma or where I work. They don’t care. I’m a pretty big guy. They could say I look like a monster or that I look like I’m possessed or whatever word they want to use to take away our humanity.”

The event is hosted by the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, which is headquartered in New York City, and in partnership with the Perception Institute.

Rashid Shabazz, Vice President of Communications for the Campaign, said that the need for honest and challenging discourse between Black men and women is important in today’s environment.

“Due to the myriad issues facing Black communities – such as the physical, mental and psychological trauma Black people are dealing with as a result of rampant police violence, the need for honest and challenging discourse between Black men and women around patriarchy and toxic masculinity, as well as greater inclusion and sensitivity to the experiences and traumas that our Black gay and transgender communities are going through — we really wanted this to be an opportunity for these urgent conversations to take place, and to provide a platform for voices that have, by and large, been excluded or overlooked by the mainstream,” he said in a news release.



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