Published to coincide with a five-channel video installation touring across the United States, including some notable venues such as The Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Exploratorium, San Francisco, California; the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin; and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Connecticut, Question Bridge: Black Males in America assembles a series of questions posed to black men, by and for other black men, along with the corresponding responses and portraits of the participants. The questions range from the comic to the sublimely philosophical: from "Am I the only one who has problems eating chicken, watermelon and bananas in front of white people?" to "Why is it so difficult for black American men in this culture to be themselves, their essential selves, and remain who they truly are?" The answers tackle the issues that continue to surround black male identity today in a uniquely honest, no-holds-barred manner.
While the ostensible subject is black men, the conversation that evolves in these pages is ultimately about the nature of living in a post-Obama, post-Ferguson, post-Voting Rights Act America. Question Bridge: Black Males in America is about who we are and what we mean to one another. Most critically, it asks: how can we start to dismantle the myths and misconceptions that have evolved around race and gender in Americahow can we reset the narrative about ourselves?
The project's founding artists, along with contributions from Andrew Young, Jesse Williams, Rashid Shabazz and Delroy Lindo, contextualize the body of the work and provide closing remarks on our current and future social climate.
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About the Author
Deborah Willis, PhD, is professor and chair of the department of photography and imaging at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. She has been a Richard D. Cohen Fellow of African and African American Art History at the Hutchins Center, Harvard University (2014), a Guggenheim Fellow (2005), a Fletcher Fellow (2005), and a MacArthur Fellow (2000). Willis received the NAACP Image Award in 2014 for her coauthored book Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (2013). Her other notable publications include Black Venus 2010: They Called Her “Hottentot” (2010), Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present (2009), the award-winning Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs (2009), The Black Female Body: A Photographic History (2002), and Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present (2002).
Natasha L. Logan is a multimedia arts producer and independent curator who has worked with a broad range of artists to create fine art, transmedia, and film projects. As a producer for Question Bridge, she led strategic planning, exhibition management, operations, and the creation of new interactive platforms. Prior to her production practice, Logan served as the assistant director of career development at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has curated independent exhibitions for artists in the United States and the United Kingdom. She graduated with a BA in English literature and African American studies from the University of Virginia.
Andrew Young was John Edwards's longest serving and most trusted aide. He raised more than $10 million for the politician's various causes and played a key role in Edwards's efforts to become president of the United States. As the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he helped propose the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1972, Young was elected to the United States Congress as a representative of Georgia. During his time in Congress, President Jimmy Carter selected him to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In 1981, Young was elected mayor of Atlanta and served for eight years. In 2003, he created the Andrew Young Foundation to support and promote education, health, leadership, and human rights in the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Jesse Williams is an actor, social-justice activist, and former teacher. He is a member of the board of directors at Advancement Project, a think tank and advocacy group, and founder of the production company farWord Inc. He has written extensively about a range of issues, including police terrorism, hunger, and predatory media practices for CNN and the Huffington Post, and has also addressed related matters as a guest on various MSNBC, NPR, and CNN programs. Williams entered the national spotlight as Dr. Jackson Avery in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. His feature credits include They Die By Dawn (2013), Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013), The Cabin in the Woods (2012), Brooklyn’s Finest (2009), and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008).
Chris Johnson is an Oakland-based artist and professor of photography at California College of the Arts. Previously he served as the president of SF Camerawork, director of the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography, and chair of City of Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission. His book The Practical Zone System for Film and Digital Photography (1999) is currently in its fourth printing.
Hank Willis Thomas is a photo-conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. His work is included in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Aperture published Thomas’s first monograph, Pitch Blackness, in 2008. He was recently appointed to the Public Design Commission of the City of New York. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, and Goodman Gallery, South Africa.
Bayeté Ross Smith is a multimedia artist and educator based in Harlem, New York. His work has been shown at such institutions as the Brooklyn Museum, San Francisco Arts Commission, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, and Goethe Institut, Ghana. He is currently the associate program director for the Kings Against Violence Initiative, a violence-prevention non-profit organization.
Kamal Sinclair is codirector of Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab. Sinclair is a transmedia producer, theatrical director, community arts leader, and multidisciplinary artist. She was a producer at 42 Entertainment, and performed in various off-Broadway theater productions, including STOMP.
Delroy Lindo is an award-winning actor, theater director, and activist. Lindo has had roles in films such as Heist (2001), The Cider House Rules (1999), Crooklyn (1994), and Malcolm X (1992). Lindo earned a Tony Award nomination for his starring role in “Master Harold” . . . and the Boys on Broadway. Lindo has also worked in television, off-Broadway, and extensively in regional theaters throughout the United States and Canada. He directed Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, California (2008).
Rashid Shabazz is the chief operating officer of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA). He has over seventeen years of experience as a grassroots media and communications organizer, and has also served as a contributing writer to several publications. Shabazz holds a BA in English from George Mason University, an MA in African studies from Yale University, and an MS from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. While working with CBMA, Shabazz has contributed to the New York City Young Men’s Initiative and the documentary American Promise (2013).