Today, the conversation continues on how we can change negative portrayals and images of black men and boys with the convening of Black Male Re-Imagined II: Perception.
The first panel will be a conversation between Star Jones and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, who will share reflections about her son and how negative perceptions contributed to his murder.
In 2010, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement in partnership with American Values Institute and the James L. and John S. Knight Foundation hosted the first Black Male: Re-Imagined. Over two days, thought leaders from various sectors and fields came together to envision a world with more accurate and human portrayals of black men and boys.
Many of the participants at this first gathering of its kind noted its historic importance and that it fostered true collaboration among various institutional players who were not currently partnering or working together.
Since the first Black Male Re-Imagined, a number of the organizations that attended developed successful strategies built upon ideas that came out of that first meeting. For example, earlier this year, Color of Change helped lead to the cancellation of “All My Babies' Mamas”, a reality show on that was scheduled to air on the Oxygen network that would have reinforced negative stereotypes about black men and women; the Maynard Institute worked with the Washington Post to launch a video series called BrotherSpeak that explored the experiences of black men and their feelings about emotions like fear and love; the Knight Foundation continues to build out the Black Male Engagement initiative that focuses on lifting up black men and boys as assets and contributors to their communities; and the Rada Film Group has launched the American Promise campaign using film as a public education and engagement tool to help close the achievement gap for black boys.
While we may not have yet stopped the perpetuation of stereotypes of black males rooted in centuries of degrading and dehumanizing caricatures, we have successfully created a community of thought leaders, organizations, and programs that are helping to bring attention and legitimacy to the issue of Black Male Achievement. Every field needs a strong communications strategy and the work of Black Male Re-Imagined has helped to set the stage for a national conversation.
Foundations have increasingly turned to the power of convening to help reaffirm field leadership, strengthen field networks, build a unified field vision, and advance a shared agenda for policy change. Black Male Re-Imagined II continues to help organizations find ways to work collaboratively and across sectors. But the ultimate success of this convening will be the long term impacts the gathering has on the individuals we hope to empower and give voice so that they too can shape their own story, reality, and perceptions.