Whisper Not: Question Bridge Diversity and the Black Male Narrative
1 month ago
How Question Bridge is Working to Eradicate the Single Story
When you enter the gallery on the 2nd floor of the museum there are 2 panels where projected, looped images of Black males are hanging; suspended from the ceiling. The fact that they are hanging, visibly alive, their faces, their necks erect, and clothed for the world to see, as themselves with locks (dread locks) and some with facial hair; hanging not as strange fruit, but as men was something to behold. Throughout the exhibition there are 4 small computers with headphones set up where people can engage in the interactive component of the exhibition.
Moving to the center of the gallery is where viewers encounter the arc of video panels on the wall. When one male is asking a question on one screen, another one or two are shown, quiet, as if he is listening to the question in real time or as if the males are in conversation with one another. There are quotes on the walls from W.E.B Dubois and others that speak to manhood and identity.
The video features the faces and the voices of every day men, some whose faces we have seen and names we know such as actor Delroy Lindo (also one of the project producers), politician Andrew Young, and New York photographer Jamel Shabazz. The faces and voices we don't know pose questions or state poignant facts such as the participant who said, "I am 58 years old and I still have father issues."
Melvin Freeman, 22, a Columbia University student from Maryland was visibly moved by the work, a pride emerged in his voice and his back clearly straightened when he said “the exhibition itself is very powerful, the candid interviews especially. The stage [panels] when you can see somebody listening to a question, then you can see that they [the respondent] may have never really considered those questions shows that there is a big disconnect in the Black male community where we don’t really translate important feelings, whether it’s between a son and a father or between a young man and an older man in the community.”
Continuing to observe the audience, there was a wide range of reactions from tears to nods of affirmations, but when people exited the gallery it was clear that they had just witnessed something profound.
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An entire family emerged from the exhibition beaming and inspired. Kenneth Brewster of Queens said, “I just loved the fact that they discuss the subject of the Black Man. One of the serious questions that they ask is ‘when do you become a man’ and that’s important.” Mr. Brewster’s 18-year-old nephew, Nashawn Henry added, “I like that they asked the question why are Black males scared to be intelligent”.
Nakeisha Jennings also a part of the family stated “Not every household has a head of house hold, or a male in it. I thought this was empowering, it was empowering for the young men to see people of different ages, different socio-economic statuses represented, people from the community, people that you see on television all coming together for a positive message and we need more of that. This is a daily message; this is a lifelong message that we can’t get enough of. I recommend this to everyone, it’s a family friendly experience.”
Despite the hectic tour schedule and opening, Loop21 was able to correspond with Bayeté Ross Smith who provided a behind the scenes look into the projects development as well as the motivation for this work.
Loop21: What is your perception of the 'state' of Black Men, specifically in America today?