Cephas Williams is fed up with poorly-told narratives about black people.
Wearing his hoodie – the iconic symbol of his movement, 56 Black Men – the campaigner and entrepreneur told Michael Hayman on Capital Conversation that now is the time to stand up and ensure black people can tell their own stories:
“People writing our story in the media don’t truly understand what it feels like to be a black man. Part of our mission is to put lived experience at the forefront of the conversation.”
In order to take control of the narrative, the campaign photographed professional black men – from plumbers to politicians – in hoodies, to demonstrate that the stereotype of the black, hooded man as “a perpetrator of violence” is both false and damaging.
Through these images, which included the Tottenham MP David Lammy, Cephas hopes to ultimately empower black men to create a platform that amplifies them, supports them, and puts them in the spotlight.
“It wasn’t being done, so I did it”, adds Cephas who argues that we ought to be living in a reflective world. These images, he hopes, ask for this kind of reconsideration.
The campaign, which is backed by global advertising provider ClearChannel UK, wants to make much more than a short-term impact: “We need to be clear about who we’re fighting against and who we’re fighting for. So long as black men face a prejudice, we will continue the conversation.”
Cephas is also the founder of photography and video studio Drummer Boy, which – like 56 Black Men – is concerned with self-representation for the black community, providing affordable studio space for black creatives amidst increasing gentrification. “It’s about great architecture and bringing it to the community.”
You can watch the full episode here.