Indianapolis exhibit offers Black male expression through photos, video

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Vernon A. Williams

By Vernon A. Williams

Bill Cosby went to jail this week for sexual allegations from decades past, while “leaders” in Congress vowed to support John Kavanaugh no matter what similar accusations two, or three, or more women bring against the prospective Supreme Court justice.

Bill Cosby Prison Photo

Even those who deem the 81-year-old comedian guilty find it tough arguing the hypocrisy. With all the white celebrities brought down in the #metoo movement, it is a Black man who becomes the poster boy for incarceration. And you probably thought money could buy anything.

There was not a single voice among his people that could speak with authority and make a difference in the wake of the demise of an African American icon. No, not one. Not a megachurch pastor. Not an Oscar winning actor. Not a billionaire corporate magnate. Not a Hall of Fame athlete. Not a platinum-selling record- ing artist, an author or an educator.

The African American male is the invisible man – for the most part. This society has no patience or empathy for what he feels, fears, or becomes furious about. The current brazen racism in this administration did not single-handedly precipitate this climate of hatred and intolerance, but it did embolden practitioners across the country.

It would be easy to give up. However, that is not in the DNA of Black Americans, who have had to endure far too much for far too long. African American men will continue to stand up straight to get the oppressor off their backs. When there is no forum to be heard in the conventional world of white America – we will create our own.

That is precisely what is happening at the Indianapolis Central Library where an exhibit began this week called “Sons: Seeing the Modern Afri- can American Male,” an interactive traveling photography exhibition revealing differences between the perceptions and true identities of Black Men in America by photographer Jerry Taliaferro.

Substantially missing in America is the outpouring of recognition for African American males who are making positive contributions to the livelihood and growth of their communities. When we pick up a newspaper or click on the face of a Black male on social media, the attached story is usually either appalling or heart wrenching.

In the postings are situations requesting prayers, instead of opportunities offering uplifting praise. The negativity and lack of appreciation for Black men has become so common that it has become the expectation. The media would have you believe that our only real warriors are those who will live in Wakanda. Forever. We must face our present-day reality.

In Indiana, we have options like the Crispus Attucks Museum, an art exhibit at Newfield’s and a small collection in the Eiteljorg at Butler University. While these places pay homage to our past, it is the Center for Black Literature & Culture (CBLC) located in the Central Branch of the Indianapolis Public Library, paying homage to the outstanding Black men in leadership roles today.

The SONS photographic exhibit provides visual depictions and conversation from 30 community selected representatives as to how each believes he is perceived by others in comparison with how they see themselves. The photographs and accompanying video talks allow viewers to examine their own “perceptions and prejudgments” about Black American males.

SONS takes us past the screens to see, really see, Black Men for who they are — fathers and sons — as they truly are, and as they one day hope to be. The photographs are of township trustees, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, educators, veterans, architects, elected officials, attorneys, artists, students, coaches, fire chiefs, professional drag racers, pastors, former heavy weight champion boxers and more. Together, they demonstrate the diversity of Black men in Indianapolis and across America.

These “Sons” represent an incredibly diverse cross-section of positions and professions. The purpose of the exhibit is to not only recognize and applaud these outstanding local Black warriors, but to also provide a platform to create introspection in the minds of the spectators as to how we perceive the Black males in our homes and communities but how we see Black men across America.

You may remember Jerry Taliaferro’s travelling exhibits “The Tuskegee Airmen Project,” “Women of a New Tribe” and “The Test” which honors the U.S. Military’s first Black aviators.Taliaferro uses his amazingly creative and artistic talent to tell the story of the people in ways that can be seen, heard, and felt.

Whether you live in Chicago, Northwest Indiana, Indianapolis, or anywhere within a reasonable drive, you should not miss this rare, powerful exhibit. Please believe that this would be my position even if I was not selected to be among the 30 men profiled in the SONS exhibit. I give God the glory for that wonderful blessing.

Regarding his incredible project, Taliaferro said: “I believe that much of the fear and mistrust that we experience in our relationships may be attributed to the fear of the unknown. As a Black American male, I have sensed the discomfort of others (and myself) in certain encounters. I have also been amazed how this discomfort dissipates as we learn more about one another and discover the many things we have in common.

“This simple exhibition is a humble attempt to dispel some of the fear and discomfort. By experiencing the process of encountering the unknown in the form of stark black and white images of subjects, with minimal information, then encountering captioned color images and videos in which more about the subjects is revealed, visitors to SONS should recognize how fear of the unknown effects our judgements and actions.

“Most of the subjects in this exhibition are African American males from the Indianapolis community. They are your neighbors, friends, coworkers and fellow citizens. Their stories are your stories. I hope that SONS will be a catalyst for conversation and increased understanding.”

This is an exhibit no Black man, woman or child should miss. The free exhibit will run through October 31 at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair Street, Indianapolis.

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