about us

Black Men Smile® creator Carlton Mackey sits down with Emory University student Flora Fei in his office on campus. Fei chose Mackey for her film assignment about social activism.

Black Men Smile®: Celebrating the Way We See Ourselves

Carlton Mackey, Creator & Co-Director (left)  Devan Dmarcus Dunson, Co-Director (right)

Carlton Mackey, Creator & Co-Director (left)

Devan Dmarcus Dunson, Co-Director (right)

Black Men Smile because we love ourselves. This platform is about radical expressions of self-love. It is about resistance. It is about learning from each other. It is about encouraging one another. It is about transcending. It is about defying gravity, as our ancestors have always done, and leaving a legacy so that generations after us may do the same. During these times when so many stories are being told about us, we will need those we tell about ourselves to be our real truth.


Black Men Smile™ was created one month after Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson, Missouri.  After seeing 100s of images of Michael's body lying in the street and after a flurry of other painful and oppressive images of Black men in the weeks to follow, I did an experiment to explore what other images of Black men made up the landscape of social media.  I entered the HASHTAG #blackmensmile on Instagram.

It yielded ZERO results.

I posted the first image with this hashtag September 30, 2014.  I asked Black men to do the same.  Today there are over 41,000 images tagged with that hashtag and over 27,000 people follow the Instagram page.

After some consideration of what I wanted to accomplish with this new platform, I set out to explore one seemingly basic question, WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE?  After posing that question to a test group of 20 Black men, 17 of them had the same initial response:

"No one has ever asked me that."

That response broke my heart and continues to serve as the fuel for this transformative work.

-Carlton Mackey
(Creator, Black Men Smile®)

Carlton Mackey, Creator & Co-Director (left)

Carlton Mackey is the Creator of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE™, a grassroots empowerment campaign comprised of Black Men Smile™ and 3 other signature projects including 50 Shades of Black.  Mackey is an artist and scholar. He is an adjunct professor of Film and Media Studies at Emory University and serves as the Director of the Ethics & the Arts Program and Associate Director of the Ethics and Servant Leadership (EASL) Program at the Emory University Center for Ethics.

Mackey’s work blends his unique combination of social consciousness, creativity, scholarship, and social connection to create powerful inner impressions that invite new discovery and personal transformation.

Devan Dmarcus Dunson, Co-Director (right)

An accomplished performing artist, activist, and entrepreneur, Mr. Dunson dedicates his life’s work to helping others find and cultivate their unique talents. While pursuing his Bachelor of Arts in History at Hampton University, he united his passions for education, performance, and civic engagement. As an educator, Mr. Dunson has led affirmation workshops at Emory University, the University of Georgia, the University of Arizona, and Clark Atlanta University. As a performing artist, his work has been featured in Essence Magazine, on CNN’s Black in America, BET, USA, Bravo, and VH1. As an activist, he is the founder of The FreeDEM Campaign, a grassroots organization that focuses on combatting hunger and homelessness in inner-city communities. Mr. Dunson holds true to the motto “I am Foreva Livin,’” encouraging global citizens to seek their true passions and leave an impact that will transcend lifetimes.

Carlton Mackey, Creator & Co-Director (left)  Devan Dmarcus Dunson, Co-Director (right) at Zucot Gallery in Atlanta, GA

Carlton Mackey, Creator & Co-Director (left)

Devan Dmarcus Dunson, Co-Director (right) at Zucot Gallery in Atlanta, GA