Artist and professor of African-American literature Ajuan M. Mance draws the faces of the black men she sees around the Oakland, CA area.
She explains the inspiration for the project on her website:
1001 Black Men is a series of drawings inspired by the faces I see in Oakland every day, and by my memories of the family, friends, and neighbors I grew up with out east. In the poem "Beautiful Black Men," Nikki Giovanni describes her love for all types of Black men, explaining that, for her, they represent "the same old danger/but a brand new pleasure." In this series of drawings, I push past entrenched stereotypes to create images of Black men that reflect the wonderful complexity of African American lives–our history so deeply embedded in our present, our celebrations so often tempered by grief and, yes, the pleasure and danger we find in so many of the people, places, and activities that give us joy."
After feeling deeply affected by watching the George Zimmerman trial, Mance added an additional component to the project — a brief quote from an African American author that focuses on their depictions of black masculinity.
Reflecting on the role of media and representation, she writes:
"So much about the tragic death that led to Zimmerman's trial revolved around the historic gulf between how so many Americans see Black men and how Black men see themselves...For the next week or so, beginning with my next post, I am going to feature the words of some of my favorite African American male writers, with an emphasis on the ways that they have depicted Black men. After each of the next several posts, I will include a brief quote from an African American writer that captures his own vision of Black men. I'll try not to repeat writers, although, as an African American literature professor, I certainly have my favorites.
I hope you enjoy this brief tribute to the ways that Black men see themselves and each other.