Today I’m challenging you to open your eyes to something that might not be familiar. After you open your eyes, open your hearts! When I turn on the news I see headline after headline that reads like a constant attack on our black men. Just know that you can’t paint everyone with the same broad stroke. Last week I saw an image on IG and I had to repost it; I don’t repost much but when something captures my attention I have to share. I reached out to Marquelle Turner, the gentlemen who posted the image and he was so gracious to share more with me. He and I did a Q&A below and included some of the beautiful images these stylish black men captured in that photo shoot.
Photo Credit: Shola
Q: How did the New Stereotype of black men come about?
A: The first quarter of last year I was studying abroad in Europe. When I returned to the US at the end of April, I became fixated with the social, economic, and political climate of America. It was almost as if I had lost complete touch while away. I spent hours on YouTube “catching” up on the news and developed an affinity for social issues that “polluted”
America. As race relations continued to rise, I knew I wanted to do something that was not only impactful but authentic to my passions. I love fashion (more so style) and I understood early on the impact of imagery. I wanted to get a group of black men together and take a picture dressed in a way that people might not expect and in a place where many blacks may not expect to work (the Financial District). It is in this way, I wanted to see how I could create “new stereotypes” and paint “new pictures” of the black male. Not only as a whole, but also within our very own communities. I live in Harlem and I consider it a mecca for black art, music, culinary, and innovation. It’s a great place to see many “shades” of black life. All beautiful. All unique.
Q: How has the recent unexplained murders on our black men affected you and your thoughts and opinions?
A: It has brought on a world-wind of emotions. From anger and frustration, to heartbreak and sadness, it perplexes me to see this happen so often. It breaks my heart to feel as if I’m not valued and that my life and the life of someone who looks just like me is an after-thought. I’m happy that the injustices are being brought to the forefront and dissected with a careful lens. I’m not certain there is one answer, but I do know that I’m happy that the conversations are being held and action is being implemented. The fervor in which people have united to express their disapproval of it is something to congratulate. But, there is much more fight left to do.
Q: What do you wish people knew about black men?
A: I wish people knew that we, too, are quite diverse. I wanted to get a wide range of guys for the photoshoot. It was important to highlight the diversity, not only in skin color, but also in personal style, background, professional endeavors, goals and aspirations. DeUndre is from Georgia, Bismark lives in Toronto (and originally from Ghana), Brandon is from Ohio, Kemoi is from the Virgin Islands, and I am from North Carolina. Growing up in different geographic locations alone presents different perspectives. We originally started with 11 guys, but due to unforeseen circumstances everyone wasn’t able to make the shoot. I also want people to know that we, too, listen to and love Hip Hop music and all we aren’t thugs. We like to have a good time, but we still love God. At the end of the photoshoot before everyone left, we prayed. Not only for each other, but for ways that we can reach other people with our gifts and with this project.
Q: Were you always so fashionable?
A: Honestly, no (laughs out loud). I think it wasn’t until I was able to explore and see more of the world that I was able to develop my personal style. I will say that style is so authentic because no one else can interpret it for you. It truly is one of the only things you have complete control over.
Q: What are your style inspirations?
A: I am honestly inspired by life. I am inspired by people I see every day on the streets of New York City. We are enduring the struggles of living here yet embracing them in tuxedo pants, a wisp of a fresh scent, and a lot of faith and hope. Lastly, I’m inspired by the 7 guys who “stood” beside me during this shoot and our photographer Shola. Shola believed in the vision from the beginning. He was passionate, professional, and proficient. They all felt it was important enough to wake up on a Saturday morning for a 9:30 am shoot and do it with optimism. I was so impressed with everyone and I think I need to step my game up (laughs out loud). Aaron wore an amazing salmon colored double-breasted, wide peak lapel suit. I couldn’t pull that off but his confidence and the clean lines made it so dope. Russ wore a floral print blazer and paired it with a crisp, colored chino and an orange Tumi briefcase. Again, very bold. Bismark’s outfit reminds me of the roaring 20’s. He was classically dressed and I loved his shoes and the white pant. Terell’s green suit and micro printed tie was immaculate. Green suit with wide peak lapels? Who does that? Terell does that. DeUndre mixes patterns and prints better than anyone that I know. He’s true to his style and is so shamelessly. Brandon is an investment banking analyst but doesn’t have that “plain-conservative” aura about him. He’s clean, he’s meticulous, and well-tailored. Kemoi was very timeless with a hint of trend. The red shoe and abstract print tie was a perfect compliment to the grey silhouette. I was humbled and inspired by them all.
My Babe and I are also raising a little black boy that will become a black man someday. Our son sees great examples of what a man should be in his family. However I want him to see images of what a man should and could be everywhere he goes. Something as simple as this is an additional step in the right direction. Kudos to these brothers for showing a side that the media doesn’t show. Kudos to this photographer for capturing the true essence of these men. Kudos to you for opening your heart and mind to something that might be different.
How do you like to see your big or little men styled? Chat with me in the comment section below or FB, IG or Twitter.