In 2012, news outlets used photos of a teenage black male without a shirt, holding up his middle fingers, claiming that the image was a photo of Trayvon Martin. It was later revealed that it was not Martin.
This is one of the many ways in which black men are caricatured in media. Launched by the NABJ in 2017, the Black Male Media Project was created to reshape such unfair portrayals.
At The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) conference held in Detroit on August 1-15, a dynamic group of influential black men in media gathered for a panel discussion to share their stories of triumph in helping to shift the media dynamic so that black men are seen not only the story but as the storytellers.
Here Are 5 Ways In Which The Black Male Media Project Is Working To Reshape The Black Male Image:
1.Changing Our Image…Literally – Sarah Glover, NABJ president, noted that small changes like news stations using a graduation photo instead of a photo of a young man at a party can help change the perception of what people think or see.
A similar idea gained viral legs on social media last year when Indiana University alumnus Anthony Wright and Columbia University alumnus Brian Allen
started hashtag movement, #BlackAndHooded to celebrate fellow graduates who had achieved advanced degrees.
2. Uniting Voices – “We have to speak in a unified voice,” said Jason A. Johnson, political commentator and professor at Morgan State University. “As a collective, we can make the change in how we are viewed. It’s an obstacle, but it’s something we can overcome.”
3. Choosing Their Battles – Even when black men hold positions of power in a newsroom and can decide what content is aired, it can still be challenging. DeMarco Morgan, CBS news correspondent said in order to move up the ranks, you have to know which battles to fight.
“People will try to say and do things to get you upset, but you can’t lose your cool. If you do, you can lose your job and then won’t be able to help anyone,” DeMarco says.
“You have to learn to be an avid code switcher. As you move up, you can then start fighting those bigger battles and becoming an advocate.”
4. Speaking Our Truths– “Seeing negative images on the news can take toll on your emotional health. We can’t keep pretending that everything is OK,” said Detroit native and founding member of Detroit’s “Zone 8” gang turned community activist, Yusef Shakur.
“We have to be there for one another. Let me know if you are depressed or having problems on your job,” Shakur says.
“We are the most feared and no one but a black man can understand what we go through.”
5. Occupy Positions Of Power – In order to own our narratives, it’s important that black men in media are equipped with the tools and support needed to either thrive and grow into positions of power. To that end, the panel offered up a few tips for black men in media on how to thrive in the workplace:
Be The Best – Know your craft. When you are good at what you do, they will seek you out.
Be Strategic – If you feel disrespected, document your experience. If necessary, start a paper trail with Human Resources, but never act off emotion.
Find A Mentor – You need an ally or someone you can trust at work to speak up for you when needed.
The Golden Rule- Always be kind and respectful. It will get you far.