Video project challenges stereotypes of black men


Question Bridge: Black Males at Oakland Museum of California in 2012. (Yoni Klein)
January 11

“Question Bridge: Black Males,” a five-channel video installation project produced by artists Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair, was created to combat stereotypes and misconceptions about African American men and inspire an open dialogue about what it is to be a black male in America.

In the video-mediated exchanges collected for the project, participants had the opportunity to pose and answer questions, typically offered by a black male of a different generation and demographic background than their own, about what it means to be “black” and “male” in America. The wide-ranging themes include, but are not limited to, family, love, faith, community, education, violence, masculinity and the future of black men in America.

“ ‘Question Bridge: Black Males’ is uniquely effective at shattering monochromatic stereotypes associated with Black males, so both participants and witnesses are freed to recognize each Black man as an individual with limitless potential,” Thomas says on the project’s former Kickstarter page. “We hope to help in a paradigm shift in American consciousness around Black male identity that removes critical obstacles limiting their political, social, and economic advancement.”

Catch the exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art before it leaves Feb. 16.

4 Number of cities that are currently exhibiting the project (San Francisco, Charlotte, Cleveland and the District). The exhibit will travel to two more cities, Seattle and Los Angeles, in the middle of January.

23 On Jan. 23, the Corcoran Gallery and THEARC (Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus) will host an official Question Bridge Blueprint Roundtable discussion. The conversation, formed in response to one participant’s query — “Why didn’t you leave us a blueprint?” — will feature local black leaders and Ross Smith, one of the project’s artists. The event is free but preregistration is encouraged.

160 Black males were interviewed for the project. The project’s collaborators traveled to 11 different American cities and towns to interview a variety of men of different social, economic, political, cultural, educational and generational backgrounds.

416 The current number of identity “tags” — words the project’s participants have commonly used to describe themselves — on display. Examples include “competitive,” “believer,” “ambition” and “father.”

1,100 The number of questions and responses contributed to the project so far. Questions include “Why wouldn’t you be happy with your son being gay?,” “How do you know when you become a man?” and “How do you know she’s the one?”

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