The Black Male Image Problem

and the men who are doing something about it

by Wil LaVeist

November 12 , 2014. A father walking his daughter, hand in hand to elementary school. A football coach talking to his young players, not about the game, but about life.
A married man hugging his wife and son.
Older men and younger men talking about issues like finding the right bride, or discovering the blueprint for the advancement of a people.
As you envision these men, what color faces do you see? Are they Black?

Well, actually on these websites that are dedicated to showing Black men in their positive lights, these men certainly are Black. These more accurate images are being showcased because of the passionate efforts of Black men who became tired of seeing themselves portrayed as pimps, thugs and the like. bills itself as the primary source for all positive content about black men. is a project where black men of different backgrounds and demographics dialogue on critical issues. showcases regular men – coaches, teachers, firemen – making a difference in their neighborhoods everyday. There’s also the TheBlackManCan Institute, which travels to cities to mentor boys, and TheBlackManCan Awards, to honor the many good men who are supposedly scarce.

“What I wanted was something that said all positive narratives and images concerning black men and black boys,” said Brandon M. Frame, founder and chief visionary officer of, which he launched in 2010. There’s even a section offering tips on grooming.

The website’s vision came to Frame while he was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta and working as a mentor to boys at a nearby school. He noticed that after the boys would be with him and other mentors, they would return to homes often surrounded by the negativity of the streets. Inside their homes, the negative Black male images on TV reinforced the stereotypes. Frame, who works as a high school administrator in Hartford, Connecticut, realized the boys could be encouraged by a website of positive Black male images.


What I wanted was something that said all positive narratives and images concerning black men and black boys.
- Brandon M. Frame
  The goal is to redefine black male identity by giving people a glimpse at Black men that they ordinarily might not get a chance to hear.
- Bayeté Ross Smith

The mass media industry – television, radio, movies, music, newspapers, etc. – are among the key reasons Black males are for the most part perceived negatively in society. In 2011, Opportunity Agenda, in three studies, observed a pattern where the image of African American men and boys is distorted. For example, Black men are underrepresented as experts such as on news talk shows and overrepresented in reports on crime and poverty. The positive images are equally stereotypical. Black men are typically shown as sports and entertainment figures. For the most part, the lives of Black boys are ignored in mainstream media.

“The Black Man Can is here to let everyone know that what people commonly say the Black man should be doing, is actually being done every day,” Frame said.

Meanwhile, “Question Bridge: Black Males” takes a multimedia, multiplatform approach to combat the image problem. Through the website and traveling exhibit, Black men are showcased talking with each other by way of more than 150 questions and answer videos. They offer deep insights regarding a variety of questions that typically aren’t addressed publically.

Participants range from actors, such as Delroy Lindo and Jesse Williams (both executive producers), to civil rights icon, Andrew Young, to policemen, academics, business owners and pastors. There are also many Black male teens offering their perspectives.

Question Bridge was an Official Selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and garnered Special Mention for the Sheffield Doc/Fest Innovation Award 2012. The video art show has been exhibited at such venues as the Brooklyn Museum, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and at the Gantt Center for Arts + Culture. “The goal is to redefine black male identity by giving people a glimpse at Black men that they ordinarily might not get a chance to hear,” said Bayeté Ross Smith, one of the website’s four creative collaborators that conceptualized the project.

One of the more provocative questions is “Why didn’t you leave us a blueprint?” which was directed to the Civil Rights generation, by a man who appeared to be a Gen-Xer. Young, who after serving alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and went on to a successful political career, responded that no one had a blueprint back then. He said they were taught by King and Gandhi and others to 'find our own way by standing up for the truth.' “Nobody has to tell us right from wrong. We know when we’re doing wrong,” he said.

Artists Hank Willis Thomas and
Bayeté Ross Smith collaborated with artists Sinclair Lewison and project founder, Chris Johnson, on the ground-breaking multimedia project
“Question Bridge.” The group raised funds through a kick starter campaign and enlisted actors Delroy Lindo and Jesse Williams as producers. It was an Official Selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

(right) Frame works with young men at The Black Man Can where grooming and dress are an integral part of the program.

“Inter generational dialogue was a really prominent thing,” said Smith who is a graduate of Florida A&M University. “That question about the blueprint I think is really iconic of how there’s divide between generations and the importance of keeping those lines of communication open.”

“I’m hoping we can get everyone to think more thoughtfully and productively and in a more varied way about identity in general and also what it means to be black and male,” said Smith. “A lot of times we (Blacks) do buy into the negative stereotypes about ourselves in multiple ways like that black people don’t value education. The idea that we don’t is pretty ridiculous.” END.



BET: Get to know Brandon Frame



Question Bridge opens at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum April 28, 2016!




Wil LaVeist is an award-winning multimedia journalist and host of ‘The Wil LaVeist Show,” on WHOV 88.1 FM at Hampton University. He blogs at and is a regular “Round Table” contributor to the Public Radio Show “Another View,” on WHRV 89.5 FM. His book, “Fired Up” won a 2008 Christian Choice Publishing Award. As managing editor at the Mennonite Mission Network, he covers the activities of mission workers globally. A graduate of the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative, LeVeist and has served as a journalism professor at Northwestern University, Hampton University, Columbia College and Regent University. He earned his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Arizona and is currently a doctoral student and teaching assistant at Old Dominion University.

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