What is Black is Human?
The rise in violence in the Black community is well documented in both the news and social media. The sheer volume of stories runs the risk of leaving listeners of all races numb to the humanity of the victims. This is especially true for the children who grow up in the midst of traumatic, warlike situations. This violence is their “normal," not just a nightly news story that they can choose to ignore.
At Burrell, we felt it was our duty to make sure that the violence didn’t drown out the voices of the people affected by it. So we went into schools and met with African-American boys. Our goal was to show those caught in the crossfire, not as victims but as loveable kids with hopes and dreams; to help all of America see these young boys as someone’s son and not just another statistic. And to inspire all of us to come together to protect our future.
Our target audience was broader than just the community facing the violence: we wanted to touch the hearts of every American who loves – and wants to protect – young boys.
Young Black men are dying at an alarming rate.
A review of statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, Bureau of Justice and the FBI revealed that 85% of Black victims of homicide were male and 51% were between the ages of 17 and 29. Of particular concern was the high death rate of young Black boys: in 2012 alone, 65% of the boys ages 19 and younger who were murdered were African American.
Never captured in the headlines was the impact of those deaths beyond the Black community. These deaths were the demise of future lawyers, executives, teachers, policemen, entertainers, doctors and scientists – maybe even the one who would have found a cure for cancer. That’s more than just a Black problem; that’s an American tragedy.
To inspire change, we knew we needed to move beyond assigning blame to creating stories that provoked empathy -and outrage- among both Black and non-Black viewers by showing Black boys as humans, not statistics, with the same hopes and aspirations any boy would have. And one aspiration many boys don’t have to consider: the desire to live long enough to even achieve adulthood.
* The “Our Black Boys” video series reached over 132,647 people in its first two days via Youtube.
* Surprisingly, one of the most desired future careers of Black boys was to grow up to be a Policeman: “To protect their family and others.”