Dehumanizing narratives about Black boys, men, and families have been spread for centuries in the United States and used to justify slavery, lynching, police violence, mass incarceration, and systemic divestment from Black neighborhoods. These racist myths shape the minds and behaviors of the public and the policies of lawmakers.
The goal of our action is to spread the simple and profound truth about Black boys, men, and families: We are always and in all ways, human. Whether a tiny tot or a teenager, young adult or young at heart, Black boys, men, and the families that nurture them are deserving of dignity, safety, care, and opportunity. Opportunities to dream, to thrive, to make mistakes, to grow, to live, to heal, to experience joy, to love and be loved, to exist free of racial fear, and to be seen, respected and fully afforded the rights of a human being.
Using portraits, our photovoice project disrupts the dehumanizing narrative of Black male criminality by replacing mugshot images the media widely circulates with images that foreground the humanity, beauty, and value of intergenerational Black boys and men in Baltimore. We also seek to counter the visible and traumatic loss of Black life to police and community violence that captivates the media by amplifying portraits and stories that center Black boys and men in life, not death. By offering a platform for Black men to control the conversation about how they are seen, our project reclaims the humanity of Black boys and men living in poverty. It invites all Baltimore residents to engage and embrace Black boys and men as their neighbors and challenges Baltimore policymakers to prioritize the economic mobility, mental health, and care of Black boys, men, and their families in their work.