Some stories get told endlessly in our media, while others are ignored or reduced to stereotypes. So while white masculinity has been explored in movies, TV, books, and journalism for years, there are far fewer spaces that examine black masculinity.
A new transmedia project called Question Bridge is hoping to change that.
Question Bridge began as a traveling museum exhibit featuring a series of talking head videos in which black men were invited to ask and answer questions on everything from "What is the legacy you want to pass on to your children?" to "Why am I a traitor for dating outside my race?", "How do we break the cycle of going to jail?", "Who is the most influential black men in music?", and "Do you really feel free?" Now the website hopes to build on the exhibit's foundation in an even more accessible online space.
The original idea came from artist Chris Johnson, who created a question-and-answer series about class and generational divisions in San Diego's African American community. A decade later artist Hank Willis Thomas approached Johnson about revamping his project with a larger focus. Artists Kamal Sinclair and Bayeté Ross Smith were brought on board and helped record more than 1,600 videos from over 160 men in 9 cities.
The project has backing from some well-known faces as well. Actors Jesse Williams (Grey's Anatomy) and Delroy Lindo (Malcolm X, The Cider House Rules) are two of the executive producers.
According to the website:
We created it to stimulate connections and understanding among Black men, but we also wanted to show the diversity of thought, character and identity in the Black male population so rarely seen in American media. In essence, we want to represent and redefine Black male identity in America.
Empirical data shows Americans, including Black people, still harbor negative associations with Black males that directly impact their ability to function successfully in this country. Of particular concern are statistics which demonstrate that the over-representation of Black males in the penal system and the disciplinary processes in schools does not correlate to their behavior. In reality, Black males are not more violent, more criminal, or more disruptive than their White male peers. The good news is that a meta-analysis of the social science research shows that there are effective means of overcoming our negative bias about Black males. One of which, is being exposed to more complex, multi-faceted, and whole images and narratives of black males. This is what the Question Bridge project hopes to accomplish.
In addition to the installations and website, Question Bridge also includes community engagement events and education curriculum. The creators hope to expand the site to eventually include 200,000 participants.
You can check out the beta site right here.