by Anthony R. Green
On June 2, I AM A MAN 2019 officially began! As Ashe and I headed to Hibernian Hall to prepare for the first set of rehearsals and the first two events, I tried to prepare myself for the week ahead. This project will engage with children in a way that is fun, but also shows them positive Black male and female role models; it will engage with youth and have hopefully life-changing and/or life-affirming conversations about contemporary masculinity, especially in the Black and POC communities; it will expose the community to civil rights and freedom songs, while providing information about their background; it will present a FREE screening of one of today's most important films, I Am Not Your Negro; and it will present two concerts with music by Black composers, mostly male. Such a project, as far as I am aware, is a rather unique undertaking, and hopefully will inspire other organizations to produce similar projects.
I AM A MAN, as a phrase, has its roots in the 18th century abolitionist slogan, Am I not a man and brother? The contemporary I AM A MAN was used heavily by Black sanitation workers when they conducted a strike for their rights in 1968. As more people started to sympathize with these workers, men of all races carried I AM A MAN signs in solidarity. Since 1968, the visibility of different expressions of masculinity has greatly expanded, but not always elegantly. The keepers of masculinity are sensitive and live up to the violence stereotype that unnecessarily, yet so often pervades definitions of manliness. Consequently, as the visibility of queer men, trans men, non-binary people, and more gender-binary-breaking people increases, so do the hate crimes.
This project aims to achieve three goals:
1) increase the conversation about Black masculinity, as well as masculinity on the whole
2) tie in these conversations with the expansion of human dignity
3) continue the conversation about the historical background of I AM A MAN for the upcoming generation of youth and children, and for the community.
The project aims to do all this through community discussions, reflections, workshops, film, dance, spoken word, multimedia, and music. COME JOIN IN THE CELEBRATION!
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