BLACK MEN SMILE™: Celebrating the Way We See Ourselves
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 8000.
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."
(Creator, Black Men Smile™)
Carlton Mackey (left)
Creator & Co-Director
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 (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.
The Mission of Black Men Smile™ is to create a space for Black Men to celebrate the way we see ourselves. We ask Black Men what makes them smile...and work to create sustainable environments where we can do it more often.
Lifestyle apparel brand
We set out on a mission to leverage the strength and appeal of our social media movement to create an apparel brand to further our commitment to celebrate the way we see ourselves.
Embody the movement. Resist.
Look good doing it.
In addition to building a nationally recognized brand birthed out of our creation of the hashtag #blackmensmile, we are generating a portrait archive comprised of professional images captured by our team of artists and those crowd-sourced from within the community. Now with over 8,000 images of Black men from all walks of life having used the hashtag (on Instagram alone), we have created a movement based on the reclamation of our own self identities.
We produce film based media productions in addition to the professional images we capture. Our team has produces a series of short films highlighting our work and seek to produce a documentary film, and other forms of art that represent a broader spectrum of Black men and Black masculinity.
We will partner with a broad constituency base in cities across the country to expose Black men to resources within their own communities AND work to ultimately ensure that the Black men in these communities see themselves as resources to their own communities.
To this end we will seed and establish BLACK MEN SMILE™ Chapters with local leadership across the country. The chapters will become self-organizing hubs for community action led by Black Men to address the unique needs of our communities.
Empowerment and education
As a team of scholars, artists, and activists, we will partner with local leaders, organizations, schools and other artists in each community/city we visit to host empowerment workshops. Infused into each leg of the tour will be our signature workshops focused on empowerment, art, and radical expressions of self-love.