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This Instagram account posts pictures of black men in hoodies. Here’s why

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Londoner Cephas Williams was sick of seeing negative portrayals of black men in the media - so he decided to shine a light on the people doing positive work in his community.

Cephas Williams has a degree in architecture. He’s also an entrepreneur and founded Drummer Boy Studios in a derelict shop front for his community in London to enjoy. But despite this, when he looks in the media, he says he only sees people like him represented as victims or perpetrators of violence.

That’s why he started the 56 Black Men campaign.

Founder of 56 Black Men, Cephas Williams.
Founder of 56 Black Men, Cephas Williams.
56 Black Men

Staring straight into the barrel of a camera, black hoods pulled up over their heads, the photos that make up the campaign are striking - and they’re meant to be. According to those involved, racial discrimination is at its highest when they are wearing a humble hoodie.

Hoodies are so threatening that in parts of the UK, the item of clothing has reportedly been banned in public spaces to curb “anti-social behaviour”.

Featuring a court clerk, plumber, motivational speaker, journalist, property developer and a member of UK Parliament, all of the 56 men photographed make a positive contribution to society.

“Every Time I saw representation of myself in the media, more often than not, either I am a victim of violence or a perpetrator of violence,” Mr Williams, 27, said in a video for the campaign.

“And this image of the young, black man that has been plastered across different forms of media, images of violence, images of negativity, was weird because in my circle, around me, I could see so many black men that were doing things that were positive.

“It was a real identity issue in my head. I felt like the world was looking at me a certain type of way, I felt like my brothers were looking at me a certain type of way.

For him it was an issue of representation, but more importantly, it was about empowerment.

“If we empower ourselves, representation will be there,” he said.

“No black boy was born with a knife in his hand, so at what point do we start to identify with a black man being a killer, or a black man being something violent.”

David Lammy, a Labour MP, is photo number 55.


He said, that despite spending most of his life in a suit and tie, outside of work he likes wear something more comfortable - like a hoodie.

“Having been stopped and searched in a hoodie myself as a young black student studying to be a lawyer at the University of London, I know that distrust of black men in hoodies is endemic in the UK,” he wrote in an opinion article for The Guardian.

“Featuring powerful photographs of black men in hoodies, from all walks of life, the project doesn’t ask us to think about what is outside of the hood, but what is underneath it.”

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