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The campaign that challenged stereotypes of black men

Why are 56 black men posing in hoodies

For every black man you see represented doing something negative, there are 56 of us that aren’t.

The number 56 taken from a sky report that detailed the number of black people murdered in 2018.

This all started as a visual campaign documenting 56 black men who are doing something other than what is widely plastered about black men across various forms of media. Championing the idea that “I am Not My Stereotype”, in 2018 Cephas took a series of 56 portrait images of black men all wearing hoodies.

The idea of a positive and educated black man is generally the opposite of what society has been conditioned to expect of us, and in some cases even influences how many black men view themselves. We also see this reflected through representation and behaviour within the workplace.

David Lammy on why there’s nothing scary about a black man in a hoodie

David Lammy MP, one of the men, recently wrote a great article in the Guardian communicating his perspective.

“I spend much of my time in a suit and tie with my top button done up and my sensible shoes neatly polished. When it comes to work, my appearance is about communicating professionalism and confidence. But, as in any walk of life, the Westminster dress code is also about fitting in. In western societies, this begins with expectant parents choosing pink or blue and ends with black-clad funeral corteges. Outside the office, like millions of Britons, I routinely throw on jeans, a T-shirt and a hoodie for pottering around the house. For me, a hoodie is like a pair of slippers or pyjamas – something comfortable and well-worn that you can wear unthinkingly. Unless, of course, you happen to be a black male.”

STOP being afraid of Black Men: 56 Black Men 

Consider that Metropolitan Police officers are four times more likely to use force against black people compared with the white population according to the MET Police

MET Police

Cephas Williams ’56 BLACK MEN’ Project Founder:

“I am a black man with a degree in architecture, and I find I am not taken seriously when I walk into a room full of strangers.”

Cephas is now trying to change perceptions of black men through the use of photography.

The 27-year-old is an entrepreneur from New Cross, south-east London, who works in the community.

But he says people don’t see him for the person he is – and are quick to judge and stereotype him.

He is tired of what he calls the negative portrayal of black men within the media and the stigma attached to them in public.

“I may be sitting on a train and there’s a spare seat next to me, and you see people looking to see if it’s OK to sit next to me. And I have to gesture to let them know it is safe.”

Cephas Williams ’56 BLACK MEN’ Project Founder

Today a black man in a hoody is seen as one of the most dangerous people in the world. Of course, this is due to bias media reporting, which is a very dangerous phenomenon, because not only have the general public been affected by this reporting, but is has changed the way the police deal with black men around the world.

The Met used force 62,000 times in 2017-18 with more than a third of incidents involving black people. The Met Police said:

“The proportionate use of force is essential in some circumstances to protect the public and often themselves from violence.”

Met Police

Most black youths when they are growing up are usually advised by family not to wear hoodies, this is because the older generation have seen this basic clothing garment get vilified. 

As a black man myself, I understand this experience. With a constant focus on knife crime and how black men are mainly spotlighted when they are either the victims or perpetrators of violence or crime, I tasked myself with the mission to help change this overly saturated narrative.
Cephas Williams ’56 BLACK MEN’ Project Founder

Photo Credit: Cephas Williams ’56 BLACK MEN’ Project Founder
Photo Credit: Cephas Williams ’56 BLACK MEN’ Project Founder
Photo Credit: Cephas Williams ’56 BLACK MEN’ Project Founder
Photo Credit: Cephas Williams ’56 BLACK MEN’ Project Founder

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