Philadelphia based multi-disciplinary artist, Shikeith, has just made a short film he calls “#BlackMenDream” which he describes as a “social practice activity film” .
By that, he means utilizing social media as a sort of outlet to provide black men with a space for emotional expression – something that’s too often “denied through intersections of race, and gender,” by the larger society and culture.
He hopes that viewers of the film will be encouraged to utilize the hashtag to publicly respond to a set of questions asked during the film, and engage in discourse about black male emotionality.
Inspired by recent events, that challenge the notion that we are living in a so-called “post-racial society”, “#BlackMenDream” deals with the still-taboo subject of the emotional health of black men today and their struggles with depression.
Utilizing actual confessions, the film reveals black men who talk openly – many of them perhaps for the first time in their lives – about their true feelings, fears and anxieties, and how their peers, family, society at large and the pressures of trying to live up to the acceptable image of what a black man is supposed to be, conspire to not allowing them to live an authentic life true to themselves.
As Dr. Waldo Johnson stated: “Young Black men suffer from much higher rates of depression because of trauma compared to their White counterparts, and many Black men don’t recognize that they have been traumatized.”
One viewer of the film told the filmmaker that: “Depression is not just being sad & having ups & downs. I wish people realized how engulfing it can be. It’s gradual … people have to think twice before telling someone they love they have depression.”
Shikeith adds that, so far, the response he has gotten for the film has been overwhelming: “I have received many touching emails, tweets, and comments from people who have become emotionally overwhelmed from watching. The notes from black men have been consistent in saying how they have struggled with a fear of emoting. Many people have never seen black men express in this way, under these really exposed conditions. It’s just not a discussion, or image of black masculinity people are willing to accept.”
He also says that, considering the current conversation around black lives in the U.S., he hopes that his film will be a much-needed document of black life that defies the stereotypes about black manhood.