We Are One – A stake in the ground for 56 Black Men
In the run up to the one year anniversary of the 56 Black Men campaign, Jess Mally reflects on why it is so important to come together and challenge the stereotypes black men face
In just over a week 56 Black Men will holding a one-year anniversary celebration.
I still remember the first time I saw one of the now iconic headshots pop up on my Instagram feed. It instantly caught my eye and I headed to the 56 page to find out more. What I found didn’t disappoint.
A campaign dedicated to changing the narrative around how black men are not only perceived in society but most importantly – by tackling the issue right at the source – challenging the way the media portrays black men in everything from the news to movies. I was in from the word go.
As a sister to black men, the daughter of one and the friend of many, I knew this was something I didn’t just want to get behind but somehow down the line be involved in.
Fast forward a little less than a year, and I have the privilege to be producing and curating the One Year Anniversary for this campaign, a campaign that has since become an organisation and dare I say even a movement.
And that’s really why we’re putting on this night – to celebrate all that has already been achieved in the short period of a year.
One of the things I wondered when I first saw the campaign take off and pretty much go viral was whether or not this was something that would make an actual difference.
Don’t get me wrong, I had no doubt that Cephas Williams, founder of the organisation, was determined to do everything in his power to challenge the stereotypes around black men as much as possible and try to affect as much change as he could, but I also knew that we had seen things like this come and go before without being around long enough to affect real and lasting change.
That’s why for me seeing the movement still going strong a year in is not only comforting but exciting.
But still, even a year in, this is no guarantee that the corporate world, the media and wider society will take note and engage long enough and listen well enough to make a difference that will see wide ranging impact on the everyday black boy and man in their day to day life. So, what will?
I’m a little history nerd when it comes to the history of racial and social injustice in the world and the reason I still believe in this campaign and its possibilities goes back to what I know about successful movements passed – movements that didn’t make an impact solely because of their leaders or even the one or two ‘famous’ people who supported it, but movements that carried the voice of the many and through that created new avenues for dialogues that were not being had.
I remember being in the Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama last year and how impacted I was by the murals of footprints all over the place. When I asked the museum guide what they were, he said they were footprints collected from people who took part in the famous march on Montgomery in 1968.
The march which, after a bloody shut down during its first attempt, ended up achieving what nothing else had before: the change of legislation ensuring black men and women in the South of the United States weren’t just allowed to vote in theory, but they were now protected in a way that would mean they could actually exercise that right.
He went on to explain, that the history books often forget to mention that the civil rights movement wasn’t just successful because of its leader Dr King or even because of the handful of names we might all remember. It was successful because of the hundreds and thousands of regular people who decided that enough was enough and all came together for that one cause.
Day after day, week after week. Not just during that one march, but during the many days walking the picket line, going on sit ins, bus boycotts and the lot. They put aside some of their perceived differences understanding that real change could only come if a great mass of people was to move in the same direction.
Now please don’t misunderstand me. I realise that the times are different and that the task at hand also much differs from the times of the civil rights movement, but I still believe that the principle that struck me at the Voting Rights museum that day applies to the chance of success of any movement.
The many that understand that WE ARE ONE and that together we can make a difference.
The many who understand that getting behind a movement that represents a cause which will eventually make a difference for all of us is worth putting small differences and even conveniences aside for.
The many that understand that it doesn’t matter whether they are black, white, male or female – injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (yes, I’m quoting Dr King) and therefore making a stand against the inequality that on many levels is still the reality for so many black boys and men in this country, and should matter to all of us.
WE ARE ONE. And if we manage to stand as one and gather as one, I believe that we actually can change the narrative for life.
That’s why I’ve continued following and supporting this movement. That’s why I’m working on this event and that’s why I believe you should come and join us.
It’ll be more than just a great night reviewing the year past, hearing stories of those who have been a part of it so far, experiencing some great entertainment and an After Party to remember. We will be putting a stake in the ground to let the world know that 56 Black Men isn’t going anywhere.
That we are in this for the long haul and that we won’t stop until the narrative is changed for life and that the realities black boys and men grow up in are what they should be.
Jess Mally is events lead at 'We Are One' 56 Black Men One Year Anniversary
Mediatel News is proud to support 56 Black Men and invites readers to attend its anniversary event on Tuesday, December 17.