I think nothing of flinging on a hoodie at the weekend. It’s the most comfortable thing I own. I’ll throw the hood up as I walk down the street and no one will think I’m threatening or potentially violent. But I realise now, that’s my privilege.
If you’re a black man, the rules are different. The media is plastered with negative images telling us that we should feel scared, that these men of colour should be considered with caution.
When Cephas Williams repeatedly saw this unrecognisable reflection of himself he was confused. He was neither violent nor threatening, and the same could be said for his friends. “Every time I saw a representation of myself in the media more often than not, I’m either a victim of violence or a perpetrator of violence,” said Williams as he explains why he started his project 56 Black Men.
56 Black Men features a spectrum of men, from trainee surgeons to choreographers, city workers and local councillors. Through the series of photographs, Williams wants to recondition our view of the hooded black man. “This is generally the opposite of what society has been conditioned to expect of a black man and in some cases even influences how many black men view themselves and their ability,” he says.
The campaign has gained some high profile support. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham wrote in The Guardian, “this is why I got involved with the 56 Black Men project..., it seeks to liberate black men from invisibility. Featuring powerful photographs of black men in hoodies, from all walks of life, the project doesn’t ask us to think about what is outside of the hood, but what is underneath it.”
Williams will continue to use social media to post striking headshots of black men in hoodies, challenging the stereotype and profiling some impressive individuals.
Visit the 56 Black Men website to find out more.