This article was written for ByBlacks.com
Award-winning photographer Lawrence Kerr teamed up with Jeff Martin and the youth mentoring group “Brothas from the 6” to re-create an iconic photo with the hopes of inspiring young men in the community while challenging stereotypes.
Martin, the founder of Brothas from the 6, started off with a Facebook group to share stories of black men from the Greater Toronto Area. The purpose of the group is to highlight the accomplishments of black men in the community and provide positive images for young black men to look up to. For Martin, Brothas from the 6 is a “movement and” chance to “be a part of something big.” He came across the picture on Facebook and when he shared it, it garnered a lot of positive feedback so he and Kerr arranged to make it happen. Martin hoped the photoshoot would get the same kind of positive response.
“Our goal is to have as many men and boys as possible in the photo, as a symbol of unity in the black community and just to combat all the negativity you see in the media,” Martin told ByBlacks.
As the men in attendance did interviews and talked amongst themselves they spoke about the power of visuals and being able to see that their goals are achievable.
Leroy Wright, a member of Brothas from the 6 said “we really want to let them (young black men) know that you may come from the ghetto but you don’t have to stay in the ghetto and you can be a role model too,”
The event gathered dozens of men and their families as well as other black-focused mentoring groups, including the Lion’s Circle. The Lion’s Circle is a Canada-wide group, which was formed 11 years ago and is a “a peer leadership group for black men, helping them achieve their goals & and they want to become,” according to one of it’s founders Mark. A. Smith. Smith said the event and the photo were equally important for the public to see to in order to help dispel some of the negative stereotypes surrounding black men but also for the young men who have become accustomed to those stereotypes, for example baseball caps and pants down to the knees.
“It’s important within the black community so young men can see that they don’t have to carry themselves like that and even if they do you can still be eloquent and gentlemen so people don’t look at you and think ‘this is what you are.’
Mickey Hutchinson, one of the other founders of The Lion’s Circle hopes that the young men in attendance and at home will see them as role models in their lives.
“Know that (you) can grow up and be the kind of men (you) see,” he added.
Mickey also runs a right of passage program for teen-aged black boys called “Rope.” He says that he is able to act as a role model because of his upbringing and the people he surrounds himself with. According to Hutchinson, being a role model means acting respectfully and with professionalism.