This started as a visual campaign documenting 56 black men who are doing something other than what is widely plastered about black men across various forms of media. Championing the idea that “I am Not My Stereotype”, in 2018 Cephas took a series of 56 portrait images of black men all wearing hoodies.
The number 56 taken from a sky report that detailed the number of black people murdered in 2018.
With this in mind alongside the increasing reporting on black men being victims or perpetrators of knife crime, Cephas decided to start to spotlight the positive achievements and job roles of black men while they are alive and not just when they are murder victims or suspects.
If young black boys continually see themselves represented in the media in a negative way this does not give them much else to look up to, neither does it help to change the trajectory of their life.
The campaign looks to challenge the lazy and dangerous stereotype of ‘the black man’ and the negative connotations and stigma attached to the cliché image of a black man wearing a hoody. The campaign makes a visually bold statement by showing black men wearing a hoody, while it also features text on what these men currently do for work. It features men from the world of finance, the arts, legal and business, right through to the medical field and more. This is generally the opposite of what society has been conditioned to expect of a black man and in some cases even influences how men view themselves and their ability. You see this reflected through the lack of black representation within the workplace also.
In April 2018, Cephas Williams and a small team of people from Drummer Boy Uk completed the first Drummer Boy Studio. They had taken over a derelict shop along Peckham High Street and turned this space into a multi purpose studio space, with a focus around creative use for the community. After everything Cephas and his team had achieved, they were receiving obstacles from people within their local council and others connected to it. Cephas couldn't understand why something like this was not being supported.
Pictured / A finished image of Drummer Boy Studios (view)
Due to the issues Cephas was facing, he was forced to sleep in his studio for weeks, during this period, Cephas woke up from a dream in studio and started writing the idea that came to his mind down in his book. He immediately drafted a message and invited a hand full of men to take their headshots and join the campaign.
Pictured / Blow up bed and Cephas' clothes in Drummer Boy Studios
AUGUST - DECEMBER 2018
Cephas spent the next few months taking pictures of men, 1 by 1 as they were recommended by each other. The number 56 inspired by the rise of documentation of black men/boys being victims or perpetrators of knife crime in the UK in 2018. Cephas decided to look into how many people in the black community had been killed that year (as explained above) and in line with the message of changing the narrative decided to spotlight 56 Black Men that did not fit the statistic. Cephas and Deborah then registered the business and started to work towards a strategy for 2019.
Pictured / Deborah holding the light, Charles #2 and Cephas #34 taking the photograph
AUGUST - DECEMBER 2018
From August to December, Cephas sat down with all 55 other men, he spoke with them all and took their head shot. He then edited all the images and released this as an artistic message to the media, a series of 56 portrait images that showcased black men in hoodies with their job roles and achievements listed. The message was simple, "let's change the narrative and start talking about black men in a positive light". Cephas, lanched this the day before Christmas and the campaign took off.
Pictured / Cephas speaking to Zech #4
The men came together to start the first discussion. As part of our mission, we look to put black men at the forefront of our own conversation. As time goes on, we will explore the voice and mind of black men through film/visual communication.
Pictured / Dumisani #26, Joss #31, Cephas #34, Tunde #8, Pablo #3
Cephas and Deborah brought on Harry as Operations Coordinator and as a business we intent to develop and grow our team where needed, raise funds to grow our program/strategy and build upon the impact we currently have.
Pictured /Cephas #34 and Harry
FEBRUARY - APRIL 2019
56 Black Men had gone viral on social media, with people picking up the campaign from London to Lagos, various news outlets reached out to cover the story on main stream media and on a number of publications/news papers. 56 Black Men had received local, national and global press and the stories we had received about how this movement had changed lives and perceptions were mind blowing. We now look to continue to push the boundaries for black men in the world of media, culture and within the community. Let's change the narrative for life,
Pictured / Claudia-Liza Armah Channel 5, Cephas #34, Samuel #45 and Dumisani #26