BrotherSpeak: Exploring the lives of black men

December 20, 2012

Six years ago, The Washington Post embarked on an unprecedented project: a several-months-long journey exploring the lives of black men. Through pictures and one-on-one interviews, in-depth stories and award-winning video, The Post’s series, titled “Being a Black Man”, revealed the sometimes complex lives of African American men.

Today, The Post, in cooperation with the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, is starting another project that explores the experiences of black men in America. Titled “BrotherSpeak,” the three-part video series is another chance to hear from the black men about what matters most to them. For the series, we asked a range of black men to discuss three words: Fear, love and dream. Each video focuses on one word.

We chose these words because we believe they represent fundamental human emotions and impulses that many black men’s experiences provide them a unique relationship with and perspective on. The point of our series is to highlight the three dimensions of these qualities as they relate to black men, while also touching on the universal human qualities illustrated by each. We believe a discussion of these words can help round out the image of black men in popular culture and touch spaces in our experience rarely explored by mainstream media.

We decided to embark on this series now because even though much has changed in the years since 2006 — a black man is the leader of the free world, after all — the public image of black men in America is still a controversial topic. The issue was dramatically brought to the fore earlier this year in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who in March was shot by a neighborhood watch member in Florida. The debate over Martin’s shooting is proof positive that the conversation about how black men are perceived — and perceive themselves — is still complicated.

The first installment of “BrotherSpeak” is on Fear. You’ll hear from a nationally renowned educator, an actor from the award-winning series, “The Wire,” a civil rights icon, an NBA basketball player, a community activist and a member of Congress about what they fear, and what they feel about often being the objects of other people’s fear. In the coming weeks you’ll also hear from black men from across the country on what they love and what they dream of. We hope the discussion that ensues will help broaden all of our perspectives about each other.

Welcome to “BrotherSpeak.”

Chris Jenkins

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