Neely is a current Garfield resident who will be a photographer with the “American Heroes” project. He recounted a recent experience in which he asked 40 Kindergarten to eighth-grade students in his art program to name their heroes. The children rattled off the names of celebrities, professional athletes, and President Barack Obama, he said.
Neely was stunned that none of the children listed a local person.
Neely believes that having the students recognize the role models living and working among them, such as local police officers, firefighters, teachers, legislators, coaches and artists, “helps them see that their goals are attainable,” he said.
“Because then it gives them a true sense that some things are possible for them,” said Neely, a former photography editor at the New Pittsburgh Courier.
The Black Male Media Project is an effort launched by the National Association of Black Journalists to inspire, support and develop training and mentorship opportunities for Black men working in media and those that aspire to do so. Nationwide, 22 association chapters, including PBMF, are participating in the project by crafting their own programs.
One of the chief goals of the project is to try to marshal more diverse mainstream newsrooms in order to address the negative images of Black males in media and work to advance fuller, more positive and representative images of Black males.
The continued and constant projection of negative images of Black males creates a cycle of negativity, said Larry Davis, dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work.
“This affects the way Whites see Blacks, the way Blacks believe Whites see them and the way Blacks see themselves,” said Davis, who has studied the issues of Black males and media images.
“One of the most important things any group of people can do is to control the image of themselves,” he said.
“Black males are facing increasing difficulties obtaining positive life outcomes and avoiding negative ones,” Davis said. “We must change the way Black males are perceived and perceive themselves.”
(For more information about PBMF’s “American Heroes: The Homewood Project,” or to sign up as a participant/photographer for a workshop that is being held June 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Homewood YMCA, E-mail project coordinator Ervin Dyer at firstname.lastname@example.org—To recommend someone as a hero for the project, go to http://www.pbmf.org/inspireblackmen.)
(Editor’s note: The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation contributed to this story.)
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