“This is about today, reimaging America where black people can be somebody,” Sean Dove, CEO of Campaign for Black Male Achievement, told journalists at the National Black Journalists Convention on Wednesday.
The story of black men and women has long been told by stereotypes and characters that tell only part of the story, a worn-out story of brokenness and dysfunction. The depth of stories–about business leaders, “proud papas,” Dove says, heroic mothers of the revolution and the community, and people who help build their community every day–that provide a clear picture of minorities in America needs to be told.
Campaign for Black Male Achievement’s panel, “Black Male Re-Imagined: Protest, Power, and Promise,” elevated those stories.
“All along the way it has been the voices of young people who have helped to change that narrative,” said Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project. “Young people are voicing their own story and telling of the beauty of their humanity.”
Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange executive director, said they confront cultural perception that fails to shift the narrative to a complete narrative, which includes advocacy work in Hollywood.
“We’ve stopped other things from going on the air,” Robinson said, “including things you’ve never heard of.”
Part of that work is working with writers by connecting them with real people and their stories, so they are more accurately told in popular television. But this work also extends to newsrooms where black crimes are over-reported by 70 percent and white crimes are under-reported by 40 percent.
The work of shifting the narrative is so critical,” Gina Belafonte, co-founder of SanKofa said. Belafonte spoke of many artists like her father, Harry Belafonte, and actor Jesse Williams who were activists first, but have chosen to use their platforms for change. “It’s a bridge and a partnership to bring grassroots organizers with the leadership of those who have been doing this work for a long time, and bridging the gap with Hollywood and artists who can use their platforms to elevate this. We’ve found over and over that art can lift and open hearts and minds… We can lean on each other and help each other.”
Her organization SaKofa.org is committed to bringing these people together. They will launch this effort on Oct. 1 and 2, “with a crazy incredible group of artists… to show the world and our country that we are not going away and will continue to have these conversations and show a unified front.”
Washington, D.C.-based Co-Founder of Duke Ellington School of the Arts Peggy Cooper Cafritz, said she has not seen a generation yet where young people weren’t telling these important stories of change.
“We continue to try to teach the kids to be artist/citizens or citizen/artists,” she said. “It’s so important.”
Belafonte said conversations among organizations and advocates have an important place in this ongoing effort to forge a new narrative.
“But we also have to ask, what the hell are we going to do next,” she said.