Two renowned Detroit institutions, the Charles H. Wright Museum and Ford Motor Company, are helping change the narrative around Black men. Through the museum’s traveling exhibit “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.” and Ford’s Men of Courage Barbershop Challenge, both are promoting positive conversations about Black Men in the community and moving the needle forward.
Neil Barclay, President & CEO, Charles H. Wright Museum: “Men of Change,” is as you say, a traveling exhibit was developed by the Smithsonian. It really looks to change the narrative about what we think about Black men and and and how those stories are told and related to media and other areas of American life. And I think what we loved about it bringing it to the right was both the notion that there were some very prominent names in the exhibit. You know, James Baldwin, Muhammad Ali, Du Bois, Kendrick Lamar. But also that it paired these stories with artists who were doing similar things in their own artistic practice and work like Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Robert Pruitt, Devon Shimoyama. So, these that combination was really attractive to us and also the notion that, you know, there were very prominent figures, but there are also some people that aren’t well known. But when you hear their stories, you’re inspired by the work they’re doing within their own communities.
Stephen Henderson, American Black Journal: And telling these kinds of stories about African-American men, you know, you would think in 2021, we wouldn’t have to look hard for opportunities to do that. But Neal, one of the reasons that the museum is so important that the space there, the dedication of that space is so important is because we still we still struggle to get these stories out there.
Neil Barclay: We really do. You know, it’s amazing in 2021 that this is still so some people a new story of fresh stories of revelation, if you will. But there are these men doing this incredible things–again, well known but not well known that are just everyday, you know, sort of hitting the pavement, if you will, trying to make their communities better, contributing to American life. And you know, it’s just been this story, of course, of African-Americans from time immemorial. You know, our stories are really undertold a lot in, you know, the American historical narratives that we hear. But this is an important part of the work that we do. It’s just sort of bringing these kinds of stories to life, right? So, just and this fits into this larger national effort, really to draw more attention to stories positive stories of African-American men tell me about Men of Change in general in a more general sense.
Justin Kimpson, National Program Manager, Ford Men of Courage: So “Men of Courage” is a yeah, it’s a tongue twister. The beauty of is that we work together hand in hand. So, “Men of Courage,” as you know, started in 2015, sponsored by and created by the Ford Motor Company Fund, ultimately to change the narrative regarding African-American men. And so, the early rendition of “Men of Courage,” we went around the country and hosted summit inter-generational summits with African-American men to storyboard and to visionize what it means to better their communities. And so since that time, we’ve been really, really busy. And at the beginning of 2019, we launched a barbershop challenge.
We created a national leadership forum that we travel and companion with the “Men of Change” exhibition. So we’ve been to over, I would say, this is our fifth city to date. And so, we are really excited about just the stories because that’s really where you get the true essence of what it is to be a Black man to learn these different stories about Black men across the country. And there’s one commonality that I’ve found as I’ve traveled across the country is that we’re all the same. You know, we may live in different communities and different cultures, but we want the same things. We want our stories to be told. We want to be heard because we have contributions that we want the world to know that we exist, and we’re relevant, and we are strong, and we are ready to make our mark in this world.